|SIYE Time:10:01 on 22nd March 2018|
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
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Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Summary: Ever wondered what would have happened if Harry's foot hadn't sunk into the trick step, when he went to investigate Barty Crouch's sudden appearance in Snape's office in his fourth year? Read on to find out! Compliant till a part of the chapter "The Egg and the Eye" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Chapter 10 up - please read and review!
Hitcount: Story Total: 14406; Chapter Total: 1515
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
Chapter 1: A Midnight Duel
Location: Outside the fourth door to the left of the statue of Boris the Bewildered, on the fifth floor of the castle of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Date: January the twenty-eighth, nineteen ninety-five
Time: Around one o’clock in the morning
Harry had taken his first step back towards Gryffindor Tower, when something else on the map caught his eye…something distinctly odd.
Peeves was not the only thing that was moving. A single dot was flitting around a room in the bottom left-hand corner — Snape’s office. But the dot wasn’t labelled ‘Severus Snape’…it was Bartemius Crouch.
Harry stared at the dot. Mr Crouch was supposed to be too ill to go to work or to come to the Yule Ball — so what was he doing, sneaking into Hogwarts at one o’clock in the morning? Harry watched closely as the dot moved round and round the room, pausing here and there…
Harry hesitated, thinking…and then his curiosity got the better of him. He turned, and set off in the opposite direction, towards the nearest staircase. He was going to see what Crouch was up to.
Harry walked down the stairs as quietly as possible, though the faces in some of the portraits still turned curiously at the squeak of a floorboard, the rustle of his pyjamas. He crept along the corridor below, pushed aside a tapestry about halfway along and proceeded down a narrower staircase, a shortcut which would take him down two floors. He kept glancing down at the map, wondering…it just didn’t seem in character, somehow, for correct, law-abiding Mr Crouch to be sneaking around somebody else’s office this late at night…
Harry looked up from the map when he was almost halfway down the staircase — and he was lucky he did too; he managed to narrowly avoid stepping into the trick step Neville always forgot to jump. He stood on the step below the trick one, quite relieved that he’d had the presence of mind to look up just in time, and wondering what would have happened if his foot had sunk through the step and had been caught in it.
Harry hurried down the remaining steps and glanced at the map again — Peeves had now moved to one of the abandoned classrooms on the sixth floor…Flich and Mrs Norris were still in their office…and the dot of Bartemius Crouch still continued to dart around Snape’s office. His heart racing now, Harry quickly but quietly opened the tapestry to a landing on the second floor corridor, double-checked that the coast was clear, and hurtled off as fast as he could towards an intersecting corridor that led to the marble staircase.
As he rushed past snoozing portraits and suits of armour, Harry’s mind began racing — almost as quickly as his heart was, due to the adrenaline coursing through his veins. The same fundamental question kept popping into his head as he softly padded down the marble staircase — why on earth was Mr Crouch at Hogwarts, when he was presumably too unwell to even get to work?
The enormous Entrance Hall was, as the map showed, empty. Moonlight streamed in through the large vaunted windows next to the huge oak double doors of the castle. Harry scanned the map quickly, making sure that Mr Crouch was still there, and that no one else had decided to take a night-time stroll in the dungeons. And, for the second time that night, Harry stopped in his tracks, staring intently at the dot that had just begin to move in the dungeons below…the dot labelled ‘Severus Snape’.
Harry stared at the map; Snape’s dot seemed to be moving slowly — Harry surmised he had awoken to grab a glass of water. His eyes followed Snape as the dot reached the middle of what could only be his living quarters (somewhere close to the Slytherin common room), and then suddenly stopped, as though Snape too had noticed something unusual. Then, without warning, the dot moved off, away from the living quarters, and out into the lower corridor of the dungeons.
Harry’s eyes moved back to the dot in Snape’s office; Crouch was still there, but he was circling the office more frantically, as though he was desperately searching for something. What could he be looking for, thought Harry, now padding down the steps to the dungeons. He knew Snape’s office had the rarer and more expensive ingredients for certain potions — Hermione had stolen some Boomslang Skin from it in their second year to brew the Polyjuice Potion — not to mention the variety of slimy and ugly things suspended in glass jars lined on the shelves around the room. Harry had been inside Snape’s office twice in the last two years (a record, he expected, bettered only by Fred and George), and both times he’d been in serious trouble.
This time, however, he was desperate to make sure that no trouble occurred.
He had reached the corridor where the entrance to Snape’s office was; it was a few doors before the entrance to the Potions classroom. Harry paused at the beginning of the corridor and checked the map once more: Crouch was still there, his dot moving more frantically than ever…but Snape was now on the staircase at the other end of the corridor, moving quickly. He must have been alerted about the break-in to his office, mused Harry, creeping softly along the dark corridor lined with stone torches. Unlike at normal times, when all the torches would be lit, only one in three were burning brightly tonight. Harry was both thankful and annoyed with it — while the darkness was something he could hide in, even while wearing his Cloak, the flickering torches cast long shadows along the corridor; despite the map telling him that no one (save Snape and Crouch) was nearby, Harry felt distinctly unnerved by it all. He had to stop himself from jumping every time he spotted an unusually shaped shadow — it wouldn’t do for him to drop the golden egg somewhere in the dungeons in the dead of the night.
Snape had reached the same corridor, and was now moving slowly along the wall towards his office. Harry imagined Snape creeping up on someone, like some oversized bat silently approaching its prey, and had to stifle a sudden laugh that threatened to escape his mouth. He forced his free hand into his mouth to stop himself from bursting into laughter; the egg, still slightly damp from the bath, almost slipped from under his arm, and he had to twist his arm awkwardly to hold it in position.
His few moments of wild imagination had cost him, however; Snape was now standing right next to the door of his office. The door was ajar, but no light streamed through from the office into the corridor; Mr Crouch seemed to be using either his wand-light, or the bright moonlight through the solitary window.
Harry peered through the darkness at Snape — he looked extremely serious and tense, even by his own standards. His mouth was set in a firm, thin line, and his black eyes — or at least what Harry could make out through the gloom — looked furious. Harry couldn’t blame him — Snape guarded his office with the utmost secrecy and caution; the ingredients and other things stored there were probably worth a sizeable fortune. Snape was clutching his wand in his right hand as he slowly approached the door to look inside properly and catch the guilty culprit.
As quickly and as quietly as he could, Harry moved closer to the door himself, drawing almost level with Snape. Careful not to bump into Snape or anything that could give away his presence, he peered inside the office.
He had been right: Crouch was using the light from his wand to peruse the items and jars resting on the shelves. Harry noticed that there were even more jars on the shelves this time, holding horrible, slimy things…but it seemed as though half the jars had been removed from their places on the shelves and were now on Snape’s desk, the floor, another side table which held books. The doors of a cupboard at the far end of the office was open…books, quills, parchments and ingredients had been pulled out of it and scattered across the floor. Even Snape’s books — which had been neatly stacked and piled onto another side desk at the side of the room the last time Harry had been inside — were not spared…they lay upon the floor in heaps, among the broken glass jars and spilt ingredients.
Harry wondered how nobody else had woken up — surely all these jars and books crashing and tumbling to the floor would have caused an almighty racket…but then, Harry saw Crouch throw another glass jar over his shoulder onto the floor, where it shattered into a million pieces, the contents of it spewing everywhere in the area near Snape’s desk — all without a single sound. His question had been answered almost immediately — Crouch must have put some sort of muffling or silencing spell on the floor.
Harry saw something move out of the corner of his eye; Snape was heading towards the threshold of the office, his black eyes filled with rage. He looked absolutely furious, and Harry saw his hand twitch…clearly Snape was going to curse first, and ask questions later…
But just then, Crouch turned around and moved towards the desk, right into the path of the moonlight filtering in through the lone window, illuminating his face…
Harry almost gasped in shock; both he and Snape stopped dead at the threshold. Snape looked too stunned to speak; Harry presumed he was surprised at the realization that it was an adult, and not a student, who was pilfering and ransacking his office. Harry, however, was too flabbergasted at the profile he’d just seen. One thing was for sure — this was definitely not Mr Crouch, the head of the Department of the International Magical Co-operation.
The man was pale-skinned, with a mop of sandy, straw-coloured hair on his head. His freckled face gleamed in the moonlight — he looked agitated and worried — clearly he hadn’t been able to find what he’d been looking for. His eyes were darting around Snape’s desk, as though the item he wanted would jump out at him immediately. Harry could see a small bead of sweat trickling down the side of the man’s face.
Harry looked up at Snape again, and was startled to see what looked like — was it recognition? Or apoplectic anger? — flit across the sallow skin. Did Snape know this person? Or was he just too enraged at the destruction of his office?
Harry didn’t have time to ponder these questions for too long; Snape had decided to take things into his own hands. The Potions Master raised his right hand, a curse ready to burst forth from his lips — when his elbow caught Harry right under his chin.
What happened next was such a blur to Harry that he wasn’t quite sure as to what did take place.
Harry stumbled backwards under the Cloak, frantically trying to hold onto something to prevent him from falling. The golden egg slipped out from under his arm — Harry made a grab for it but missed — it hit the floor with a bang, and rolled ten feet away from him in the corridor where it came to a stop, but mercifully, thankfully, not bursting open and wailing — but the momentum from his lurch to catch the egg carried him too far: he fell to the floor with a loud THUMP — the Invisibility Cloak had slipped out from over his head; he lay there, invisible from the neck down, dazed from the impact of the back of his head hitting the cold, stone floor, the Marauder’s Map, bless it, still clutched tightly in his left arm…
The noise had alerted the intruder to the presence of someone at the door. The man looked up, panic-stricken, only to see the most bizarre scene he’d probably ever witnessed: Severus Snape, standing slightly off-balance, rubbing his right-hand elbow furiously, looking around to see who, or what, he’d caught, his wand hanging limply from his right hand…a large golden egg appearing out of nowhere and rolling away in the middle of the dark corridor…and the head of Harry Potter, lying on the floor outside the office, his eyes slightly unfocused behind his round glasses…
And even as he processed this unusual sight, Snape’s cold, black eyes fell on the golden egg, and slid over to Harry’s head — the only thing visible to Snape and the man, at least — the face of which still had a bleary look on it. Harry could see Snape’s visage twist into a horrible expression, seething with fury at the sight of him, Harry — coupled with the fact that his office was thoroughly ransacked, and Harry was surprised that Snape hadn’t exploded and started cursing everything and everyone in sight yet.
He didn’t have long to wait to witness Snape vent his fury, however: the sandy-haired man had withdrawn his wand and had fired a curse at Snape. Harry, groggy as he was, couldn’t catch the words yelled out by the man, but he saw a jet of purple light whizz past Snape’s head and hit the other wall of the corridor — Snape had ducked just in time to avoid the curse. The Potions Master drew his wand from his robes as well, pointed it at the man, and gave it a flick — all in one fluid motion — Harry had barely enough time to appreciate Snape’s speed and dexterity, when a narrow jet of white light shot towards the office — Harry couldn’t see what it had hit, but knew it hadn’t been successful — a loud BANG echoed throughout the corridor — it seemed as though the spell had smashed into the shelf behind Snape’s desk…there was another noise from inside — it seemed that the man had ducked behind the desk to avoid the curse and was now scrambling away from the ruins of the shelf, its contents raining down below…
Harry pushed himself up to a sitting position. The scene swam before his eyes, and he forced himself to focus…he had to help Snape — most hated teacher or not, that pale-skinned man was not supposed to be in Hogwarts, and —
‘Bloody hell!’ yelled Harry as a jet of vivid green light struck the opposite wall, narrowly missing his face, Snape avoiding it himself by the tiniest of margins…Harry scrambled to his feet, the Invisibility Cloak falling to the floor in a silvery pool of fabric. He drew his wand and strode to the door of the office, folding the Marauder’s Map and placing it back in his robes…he hadn’t had the time to check if anyone else was approaching the dungeons — Filch, and probably some of the school’s population, would have heard the racket now coming from what remained of Snape’s office.
For the office now resembled a battleground — it was completely destroyed: ingredients, jars, furniture, books, everything lay in ruins and tatters on the floor…Snape was standing near the door, peering through the dust at his adversary — his left arm seemed to be bleeding — Harry could see a long thin gash on his forearm, with a matching rip to his black nightgown. Harry couldn’t make out where the sandy-haired man was standing, however; the dust from the wreckage of the desks and shelves hung thick in the air — it was quite difficult to see even a feet in front of him. And then, without warning —
Harry’s head hit the ground yet again — Snape had thrown himself to the side to knock Harry to the floor just in time — the sickly green light from the Killing Curse shot over their heads — the door exploded on the curse’s impact — splinters and chips of wood showered over the two of them. Snape cried out in pain — the splinters must have hit him on his legs (which were closest to the destroyed door).
A third jet of green light missed its mark once again — it splashed harmlessly against the solid opposite wall of the corridor. Snape’s face was still screwed up with obvious pain, but he quickly lifted himself off Harry and stood, rather unsteadily, near the entrance. Harry, his skull aching with pain at the second solid impact in as many minutes, pushed himself off the floor, coming to stand next to his Potions Master. Snape cast a sideways glance at Harry, and suddenly, Harry heard his voice, loudly and clearly in his mind, as though Snape had actually spoken to him aloud.
Disarming Charm. Right after my spell — just below my target.
Harry looked up at Snape, who was still staring at him out of the corner of his eyes, while concentrating on the man at the other end of the office. Harry had no idea what Snape’s plan was, but at that moment, he had a sudden urge to utterly and completely trust the man.
Harry, still looking at Snape, nodded ever so slightly. He waited for a moment, not sure if Snape had seen it clearly…but Snape understood.
‘Stupefy!’ roared Snape, his wand pointing at the place from where the Killing Curse had last appeared. A jet of scarlet light shot out of Snape’s wand, speeding through the dust towards the man, and vividly illuminating the scene. The man let out a yell, and ducked to avoid the light, but —
‘Expelliarmus!’ bellowed Harry, and a second, darker jet of red light blasted from Harry’s wand — it shot towards the spot right below where Snape had aimed his spell — just as Snape had instructed him to do, on the hunch that the man would duck to avoid his Stunner — the Disarming Charm hit the man squarely on his chest; he was blasted backwards onto the wall behind him — his head smashed against the ruins of the shelves, and he slid to the floor in a heap.
They were both breathing heavily — Snape more than him, Harry noticed; Snape suddenly stumbled, no doubt due to the splinters lodged in his legs from the exploded door, coupled with the exhaustion settling in after the fierce duel with the intruder — Harry caught him just in time to prevent him from colliding sharply with the debris littering the floor. He helped Snape lean against the wall next to the door, his legs stretched out in front of him; Harry could see blood trickling down the soles of Snape’s feet, and knew it was much worse than what was visible just then.
Snape grabbed the hem of Harry’s pyjamas as the latter stood up, surveying the damage done to the room; Harry looked back at the Potions Master with a curious look. Snape was still breathing rather heavily, and his black eyes were slightly unfocused — he tugged on Harry’s pyjamas again, signalling Harry to bend down to near his face; he seemed to want to tell Harry something, and it was taking him a supreme amount of effort to do so.
‘Ropes…bind…Incarcerous,’ breathed Snape in Harry’s ear when he’d stooped to listen. ‘Then go…Dumbledore…no one else…Cockroach Cluster…now!’ Snape wheezed out the last word with considerable effort — his grip on Harry’s pyjamas suddenly loosened, his hand slid off it and thumped onto the floor…
Harry stared at Snape, too shocked and stunned to move — Snape couldn’t be…there’s no way…he couldn’t possibly have…
And through the dim moonlight that was scattering through the dust, Harry could make out the slow rise and fall of Snape’s chest…the sign that he’d been hoping to see…Snape was still alive.
Harry slowly moved away from Snape, careful not to step on his legs (a considerable amount of blood was pooling beneath them) or any of the glass, wood or ingredients that lay on the floor. He looked around — he needed something to stem the blood flow…some cloth, something, anything…
His eyes fell on the intruder lying on the other side of the room behind the desk, still unconscious. Harry crossed the room as quickly as he could — although it felt like he was playing a game of hopscotch with the difficulty set to the highest possible level, there was just so much debris — bent down near the man, and ripped off a piece of his shirt, hoping and praying that he hadn’t woken him up…
With the piece of cloth in hand, Harry returned to Snape, and with great difficulty, managed to tie it around his right leg, where the blood flow seemed to be the most. Harry noticed that the splinters were gone — Snape must have removed them from his legs just after they’d knocked the man out.
After he finished tying the makeshift bandage, Harry stood up and moved towards the man once again. A trickle of blood was flowing from under his straw-coloured hair, dripping onto his pale, freckled face. Harry thought the man looked slightly familiar, but he couldn’t place him — he’d never seen the man before in his life, and he definitely didn’t look like any of the students from Beauxbatons or Durmstrang…
Snape’s last words before slumping to unconsciousness echoed in his head — ‘Ropes…bind…Incarcerous…’
It took a few moments, but Harry finally understood — Snape was telling him what to do with the man…he was supposed to tie him up with ropes, and ‘Incarcerous’ was the spell to do it…
Harry raised his wand, and, his hand shaking slightly, said, ‘Incarcerous.’
Thin, snake-like cords burst from the end of his wand, twisting themselves around the man’s torso, thighs and ankles; his arms were pulled and drawn against his sides, his legs snapped together too — the ropes forced a change in the man’s position — he swayed slightly, off-balance, and slumped onto the floor towards his left, still out cold.
Harry let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding on to — he had been half afraid of the man suddenly waking up and attacking him. Still apprehensive, he bent down to bring his face level with that of the man’s, just to make sure he was still unconscious — but he needn’t have worried; the man’s eyes had a vacant, dazed expression, and he didn’t react when Harry waved his hand in front of his face.
Harry stood up, brushing the dust collected around his pyjamas. Now that the adrenaline of the extremely brief duel he’d had with the man was wearing off, he became very aware of his exhaustion, and the throbbing pain in his head. He wanted nothing more than to get back to bed — grabbing some pain-killing potion along the way — but he couldn’t leave Snape and this man like this; the man could awake at any moment — Harry wasn’t too sure how hard he’d hit the shelves when his Disarming Spell had smashed into him, and he didn’t want to take any chances.
He gingerly walked over to Snape’s prone figure on the ground; the bandage around his leg was now shining scarlet with blood — some of it had seeped onto the stone floor, forming a pool. Snape was still breathing though, which in Harry’s opinion was a good thing — for all his faults and the fact that he was Snape, Harry didn’t want Snape to die…not right then, anyway.
He moved out of the office into the semi-dark corridor; the light from the interspaced torches illuminated the golden egg and the Invisibility Cloak — both lying at the same place where he’d last seen them. He picked up the Cloak and the egg, and was just about to set off for Dumbledore’s office when he realized that the egg would be too much of a hassle to carry around; he’d already spent a considerable amount of time in ensuring that Snape was okay and that the man was bound tight — he didn’t want to delay things any further just because he was carrying the heavy egg.
Harry scanned the corridor quickly — Snape’s office was an option, but it was too risky — what if there was another duel? His eyes travelled down the length of the passage, finally resting on the last door of the corridor — the Potions classroom.
Feeling that that was as good as any other place for the time being, Harry hurried over to the classroom and creaked the door open. It was deserted; it was a lot colder down here at night, and Harry shivered in his thin pyjamas. He headed to where he usually sat — right at the back of the classroom — left the egg on the bench, and quickly exited the classroom. He’d pick it up when he returned down here with Professor Dumbledore.
And then Harry ran — well, at least as fast as he could run under the Cloak. He didn’t bother with using the Marauder’s Map, didn’t care if he met Filch or Mrs Norris or not — he had to get to Dumbledore as soon as possible — he’d spent too much time already, Snape had lost a lot of blood, the man could be stirring at any moment —
‘C-cockroach Cluster!’ panted Harry breathlessly, skidding to a halt in front of the large, ugly, stone gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Dumbledore’s office and ripping the Invisibility Cloak off himself. The gargoyle jumped aside, revealing the circular stone staircase that slowly circled upwards to the oaken double doors; Harry rushed inside without even bothering to knock, calling out loudly, ‘Professor Dumbledore! Professor!’
Dumbledore’s office was interesting enough for a visit — even if you had just been sent to the Headmaster for some serious offence — but Harry had no time to look around the vast number of portraits — all their occupants were evidently sleeping; the many spindly tables upon which rested a number of intricate and delicate instruments; the perch behind the door where Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix stood; the patched, frayed, and ragged looking Sorting Hat; next to that, in a glass case, the gleaming sword of Godric Gryffindor; and the enormous, claw-footed desk, with Dumbledore’s high-backed chair placed behind it. A patch of unusual, silvery light was dancing and shimmering on the glass case that held the sword; Harry ignored that as well.
A sudden noise from above made him snap his head up: Professor Dumbledore had appeared in the loft above, wearing a plum-coloured night-gown and a concerned expression on his old, lined face.
‘Harry?’ said Dumbledore curiously. ‘What are you —’
‘Professor!’ gasped Harry, ‘it’s Snape — there’s a man in his office — we knocked him out, but Snape’s injured —’ Harry gestured wildly with his hands for Dumbledore to come with him.
To his great relief, Dumbledore did not question him any further — the garbled sentences that he had spewed out seemed to have explained the situation well enough to Dumbledore. He nodded swiftly, and hurriedly followed Harry down the circular staircase, past the gargoyle, and out into the corridor towards the marble staircase. Harry, still panting from the dash he’d made from the dungeons up to Dumbledore’s office on the third floor, jogged along beside Dumbledore, who was taking very long strides.
Mercifully for Harry, Dumbledore refrained from questioning him throughout their short trip across the castle — the Headmaster’s Tower was located at the opposite end of the school from the corridor that contained Snape’s office and the Potions classroom. As they descended the narrow stone steps from the Entrance Hall to the dungeon corridor, Harry had a sudden idea, and stopped abruptly.
‘Just a minute, Professor,’ he said to Dumbledore, who’d stopped too and was peering at Harry up the dimly lit staircase; Harry, his breathing very shallow due to the sprints, dug into his pyjamas and pulled out the Marauder’s Map. He hadn’t wiped it clean when he’d folded it up before entering Snape’s office — the dots of the various occupants of the castle were still visible, most of whom were congregated in their respective common rooms or quarters. Harry’s eyes though, flicked to the room in the bottom left-hand corner of the map — Snape’s office…and what he saw made his insides churn with dread.
The dot of Severus Snape was still there, unmoving and motionless: he was still unconscious. The dot of the room’s other occupant, however — Bartemius Crouch, supposedly — was moving, albeit very, very slowly. It seemed as though he was still dazed from the fall; the dot kept stumbling from side to side as it approached Snape…Harry felt a sudden thrill of foreboding, as though he knew something horrible was about to happen.
‘No, Professor!’ yelled Harry to Dumbledore, stowing the map away in his pyjamas again — he followed Dumbledore, who’d pelted down the stairs as soon as Harry had shouted, now positively charging down the corridor to the office, the door of which was still ajar…
A terrible scream of pain issued from inside Snape’s office; Harry stopped dead just outside the door, too stunned to say or do anything, right next to Dumbledore, as he looked inside.
Snape was screaming — screaming so loudly that Harry was certain the entire castle would hear it — he was thrashing about wildly, his head swinging from side to side on the floor — Harry could see him try to curl up instinctively, but couldn’t — the man was standing on Snape’s bandaged leg — blood was flowing out of the soaked cloth in rivulets —
And as Harry looked up into the face of the man, he thought if there could be a pictorial representation of maniacal insanity, this would be it — the man’s mouth was stretched into a wild, terrible, twisted grin; his eyes were wide open, as though he wanted to remember this moment of torturing Snape forever — and suddenly, he began to laugh, a cold, ruthless, maniacal laugh; Harry could literally feel the evilness dripping off him —
All this was processed by Harry in less than five seconds; Dumbledore had raised his wand and bellowed ‘Stupefy!’ — and for the second time that night, the sandy-haired man was blasted backwards; he collided with the cupboard in the other corner of the room, accompanied by a sickening crunch, and slumped to the floor, motionless.
And for the first time in his life, Harry was able to appreciate just why Dumbledore was the only one Voldemort ever feared — Dumbledore’s face held no trace of his usual benign smile, no twinkle in his blue eyes. The look upon the Headmaster’s face as he stared at the unconscious form of the man was more terrible than Harry could ever have imagined, let alone seen — there was cold, absolute fury etched in every single line of the ancient face, and power — sheer power — radiated off Dumbledore, as though he was giving off burning heat.
Dumbledore stepped into the office and strode over to the man near the cupboard; Harry however, went straight to Snape. The Potions Master was groaning in pain — he was still twitching at the after-effects of the Cruciatus Curse. Harry shuddered as he recalled Mad-Eye Moody’s first lesson where he’d taught them about the Unforgivables — Moody had performed it on a spider, and Harry knew it would have been screaming with pain if it had had a voice…to see it cast on a human being — a Hogwarts professor, no less — by someone who was no doubt insane…
Dumbledore had dragged the man over the debris to lay him next to the broken door. He was still looking down at him with an expression of deep disgust and hatred — Dumbledore clearly knew who this man was. Snape groaned again, and attempted to sit up, but he was shaking all over so much that he barely managed to raise himself slightly, before collapsing onto the floor once again.
‘Lie still, Severus,’ said Dumbledore quietly, as he bent over Snape, looking over him slowly. ‘Was it as intense as —’
‘No,’ Snape gasped out; Harry could see the extreme effort it took for him to speak that one word. Dumbledore peered down at Snape’s legs, both of which were now lying in sizeable scarlet pools.
‘He-he was hit by splinters from the door, sir,’ said Harry by way of an explanation. ‘They got caught in his legs — he got them out, but it caused even more bleeding —’
Dumbledore nodded; then, he waved his wand once more — a large, silvery thing shot out of it and streaked out the door; Harry noticed the light in the corridor fade as it moved away from the office, towards the Entrance Hall. Then, Dumbledore turned to Snape, pointed his wand at his legs, and said softly but firmly, ‘Episkey.’
Snape cried out in obvious pain, although not as loudly as he did under the Cruciatus; Dumbledore performed the spell a few more times on his legs — Harry presumed it was a standard Healing spell, for the wounds seemed to be closing up, the blood flow slowing down…
Footsteps echoed along the corridor; seconds later, Madam Pomfrey appeared at the doorway, looking pale but alert. Her mouth fell open in shock as she surveyed the damaged office, and when her eyes fell on the figure of Snape, she gave a horrified exclamation.
‘Goodness, Professor Snape!’ she cried, hurrying over to his side. ‘What on earth happened to — Merlin’s beard!’ Her hand flew to her heart — she’d just seen the substantial pool of blood around Snape’s legs. ‘He needs to get to the hospital wing immediately, Headmaster, he’s lost a lot of blood.’
Dumbledore nodded, and waved his wand yet again, conjuring a floating stretcher out of thin air; with another wave, Snape floated up and landed gently on it — he seemed to have slipped back into unconsciousness, for his eyes were closed and breathing a bit more even. Without another word, Madam Pomfrey, her wand held out in front of her, moved the stretcher out the door and towards the Hospital Wing.
‘What about him, Professor?’ asked Harry in a shaky voice — Snape was probably the most stoic person Harry had ever known, and to have seen him in such pain tonight had shaken up Harry quite a bit. He nodded towards the motionless figure of the pale-skinned, freckle-faced man.
‘He will come with us,’ said Dumbledore; Harry could detect a faint trace of anger in his tone. Dumbledore straightened up, waving his wand as he did so — this time, heavy chains erupted from the end of his wand, binding the man up so tightly that Harry knew he couldn’t move even he tried. A quick swish and flick later, the man was floating upright in front of Dumbledore, whose wand was pointed out in front of him.
‘Wand out, Harry,’ said Dumbledore, and Harry also drew his wand from the pocket of his pyjamas. ‘And if you could…’
‘Do check that wonderful map of yours to see if any student, teacher or ghost is on our way from here to my office. I do not wish for anyone to see us at the moment, it would result in a great deal of questions, to which I am not sure of the answers myself.’
Harry unfolded the Marauder’s Map once more and stared at it, mentally mapping out the route to Dumbledore’s office. There was no one en route; Peeves was moving, as usual — he seemed to be floating slowly inside a fifth floor classroom. Madam Pomfrey and Snape, Harry noticed, had reached the hospital wing — she was bustling around, evidently gathering pain-relieving and blood-replenishing potions, amongst others.
Harry kept checking the map at every landing and corner for the sign of anybody — thankfully, no one interrupted them during their short trip to Dumbledore’s office. Dumbledore was still holding his wand in front of him, guiding the bound man up the staircases and along the corridors; he gave the password to the stone gargoyle, who leapt aside to reveal the circular staircase to the office.
They headed up the stairs to the office. Harry pushed the door open first, allowing Dumbledore to float the man inside and to the wall near his enormous desk, upon which he was made to lean against. He was still out cold.
Dumbledore moved past Harry and seated himself behind his desk. Harry sat, too. He desperately wanted to ask Dumbledore something, but he didn’t know if Dumbledore would answer him — he had, after all, stated that he wasn’t aware of the answers to certain questions himself. But as Harry recalled the look of revulsion — the first time he’d seen such an expression on the usually kindly, wizened face — that Dumbledore had sported when he’d dragged the man over to them, he was sure Dumbledore did know the answer to his question…
Dumbledore seemed to have sensed his curiosity — or it must have shown on Harry’s face — for he said, ‘What is it, Harry?’
The question burst forth from Harry’s lips before he could help it. ‘Who is this man?’
Dumbledore’s expression hardened slightly, but he answered nevertheless — an answer that rocked Harry completely.
‘This man is Bartemius Crouch Junior, son of Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Co-operation at the Ministry of Magic,’ said Dumbledore. ‘This is the man who has been impersonating Alastor Moody since the start of this school year.’ He paused for a moment.
‘And, if I’m not mistaken, he was the one who put your name in the Goblet of Fire.’
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