|SIYE Time:14:31 on 21st May 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: 15195; Chapter Total: 1369
Look who's here! :) Hope you enjoy this chapter!
When Harry Missed the Trick Step
Chapter 3: Nightmares
Previously on “When Harry Missed the Trick Step”…
‘I would volunteer to place the Triwizard Cup in the centre of the maze. Turn it into a Portkey, so that when Harry Potter touches it, he would be transported to my master. He would use Potter to return to his body, to return to power, and to honour me for completing his task, but…’
Crouch gave a shuddering gasp, and tears began to well up in his eyes and drip down his face.
‘I have failed my master,’ he whispered. ‘I allowed myself to be captured by Albus Dumbledore, and I have failed him. He will not honour me…I will not be considered as his most devoted, most loyal servant…’
His expression was one of despair and devastation; he turned his face away from the disgusted looks of Dumbledore and Madam Bones, as he began to sob quietly in earnest.
Dumbledore stood up, still wearing an expression of disgust and dislike as he stared down at the sobbing figure of Barty Crouch Junior. He flicked his wand, and the intermittent mutters and wails of Crouch Junior were silenced immediately.
Harry continued to stare at the crying man. His mind had gone numb with shock. He knew Crouch Junior was a Death Eater, knew he had entered Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire, but to actually hear it from him…
And he was acting on Voldemort’s orders! Lord Voldemort, whom he hadn’t seen since his first year at Hogwarts, was returning to full strength. And he needed Harry — he wanted to use Harry to return to his body…
A wave of cold swept over Harry, as though a Dementor had just entered the room. The prospect of Voldemort returning to full strength, with his old body, was bad enough…but for Harry to be a part of it…for Harry to be responsible for it…
‘Do not worry, Harry,’ said Dumbledore quietly, and Harry looked up at him, surprised to feel his brow and forehead wet with sweat. Dumbledore was giving him a calm, reassuring look.
‘This information will prove to be priceless for us,’ said Dumbledore. ‘We now know what Lord Voldemort’s plans are —’ Harry noticed that Madam Bones did not flinch at the name ‘— and we will do everything in power to make sure they do not come to fruition.’
‘Indeed,’ said Madam Bones quietly. ‘This is a real coup for us, Dumbledore — it is fortunate that he has been caught now, instead of after his plans become successful.’ She glanced down at the still silently sobbing figure; her expression turned into one of revulsion, and Harry could visibly see her battle the impulse to curse him on the spot. ‘The question is — what do we do with him?’
Dumbledore looked away from Harry to address Madam Bones. ‘Before we deal with him, Amelia, there are a few more pressing matters that need to be addressed immediately. The real Alastor Moody is still imprisoned in his own trunk — it would be imperative to get him out of there at once. We would also need to rescue Barty Crouch from Lord Voldemort’s clutches.’
Madam Bones nodded, a sudden, pained expression crossing her face. The mention of Mr Crouch had evidently affected her — Harry surmised that, despite his strict demeanour and disciplined habits, he was quite well-respected and liked within the Ministry. He only hoped that Voldemort hadn’t disposed of Mr Crouch, like he’d done with Bertha Jorkins.
‘I will take care of Barty Crouch, Dumbledore,’ she said, steeling herself. ‘I will organise a team of Aurors for this mission later in the morning.’
‘Be careful, Amelia,’ said Dumbledore. ‘Lord Voldemort, whether at full strength or half, is not an easy adversary to deal with. Also, it might be best if this is kept as a covert operation — we do not want Rita Skeeter — or certain other people within the Ministry — to find out about this.’
Madam Bones smiled at him grimly and nodded. Then she crossed the room to the fireplace and threw some Floo powder from the small box on the mantelpiece into the crackling flames, which turned green at once.
‘I will give you an update on this as it progresses, Dumbledore,’ she said. ‘Also…’ She turned to face Dumbledore, and her eyes seemed oddly bright, the firelight reflected in them.
‘Take care of Alastor, please.’
Dumbledore gave her a small bow and a nod, his face sombre once more. Madam Bones turned back to the fireplace and stepped into the flames; a moment later, with a cry of ‘Bones Mansion!’ she was gone.
Dumbledore stared at the fireplace for a few moments, his old visage seemingly troubled. It was a while before he turned away from the fire, but his stare merely shifted to the inky black sky outside the window. At his feet, Crouch Junior continued to sob silently.
Harry followed his gaze to look out the window, from his seat behind the desk. The moon shone brightly, and the stars twinkled incessantly. Harry felt his exhaustion return to him in full force — more than he’d ever felt before that night. The confession of Crouch Junior was still swirling around in his brain; he desperately wanted to get back to sleep in his four poster bed up in Gryffindor Tower. He’d had enough adventures and revelations for the night.
‘Err — Professor?’ he asked tiredly.
Dumbledore turned to look at him, and his expression immediately morphed into one of concern.
‘My apologies, Harry,’ he said. ‘I should have realised…you may return to Gryffindor Tower. Do take your Cloak and map with you,’ he added, as Harry stood up from his seat. Harry nodded at him, and picked up the Marauder’s Map — which he’d left lying on Dumbledore’s desk — and moved to the door of the office. He was just removing his Cloak from under his pyjamas when Dumbledore spoke again.
‘And Harry — please remain in Gryffindor Tower for the night. Anything you might want to do — any owls you may want to send — they can wait until later today — do you understand? Also, I would ask you not to openly speak of what happened tonight with anyone for the moment — apart from Mr Weasley and Miss Granger, of course.’
Harry nodded, too tired to respond or argue. He had thought about sending an owl to Sirius detailing the night’s events, but he figured his exhausted brain and body wouldn’t have permitted him to write a letter and walk all the way to the Owlery to send it. No — it was best to wait till morning, just like Dumbledore said. Telling Ron and Hermione could wait too — they were probably asleep anyway.
‘Good night, Harry,’ said Dumbledore softly as Harry shuffled outside onto the circular stone steps and shut the door behind him. Harry merely grunted in acknowledgement.
He did not know how he managed to make it all the way to the seventh floor of the castle — he was so tired and drained, he was half afraid of collapsing at any moment on the way upstairs. His feet seemed to be carrying him of their own accord; his brain certainly wasn’t commanding it to climb the stairs and shuffle down the corridors.
Ten minutes after leaving Dumbledore’s office, he found himself standing in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady, who guarded the entrance to the Gryffindor common room. She was snoozing in her frame, and it took Harry several shouts of the password — some of which echoed around the empty corridor — to wake her up and allow him inside. She eventually did swing open, a sleepy, grumpy expression clouding her plump face, and Harry slowly scrambled inside.
The common room was warmer than the corridors outside — the fire was still crackling merrily in the grate, the flames illuminating the squashy armchairs in front of it in a soft red glow. Harry moved two paces from the portrait hole towards the steps leading to his dormitory, when he stopped. He was too drained, too exhausted…why couldn’t he just sleep in the common room, right here? He turned towards the fireplace that dominated one wall of the room — the long sofa that was right in front of the fire looked so inviting…so comfortable…
He dragged his spent feet towards the sofa. The large portrait of the Gryffindor lion that adorned the mantel of the fireplace looked rather foreboding in the light of the fire, but Harry barely paid it any mind… Sleep was beckoning to him, calling him lovingly to her arms, to rest and relax…
‘Harry?’ said a quiet voice.
Harry started. Ginny Weasley, Ron’s younger sister, was sitting in one of the smaller armchairs before the fire, her legs pulled up to her chest, her arms holding them tightly. Her red hair looked even fierier in the firelight, her brown eyes glinting in its glow as she gazed at Harry. She looked tired and drained, as though she hadn’t slept at all.
‘Ginny?’ said Harry. ‘What—what are you doing down here at this t-t-time?’ he asked, suddenly giving a huge yawn.
‘Couldn’t sleep,’ she said, confirming Harry’s suspicions. ‘I could ask you the same, though,’ she pointed out. She was still staring at him, which made him slightly uncomfortable in his sleepy, befuddled state.
‘I just got back,’ he said, sinking into the soft sofa with a deep sigh. What he wouldn’t give to collapse right now…
‘I can see that,’ said Ginny, a smirk flitting across her face. Harry glared at her, but the effect was useless; his eyelids were shutting of their own accord.
‘Sh-shut up,’ he mumbled drowsily. He was almost there, almost in the land of slumber…
Ginny gave a soft giggle — a sound which Harry found, to his surprise, quite endearing. Now where did that come from, all of a sudden? Endearing, really? That can’t be right, surely…
But at that precise moment, Harry’s brain decided to shut down, and he fell into a deep sleep. If only it were a peaceful slumber…
He was flying across the school grounds on his Firebolt; the wind whipping his hair, the cold air stinging his skin as he skimmed over the surface of the Black Lake and pulled up sharply. He was shouting and whooping with glee, and looked down, expecting to see an ecstatic expression in his rapidly distancing reflection — all of a sudden, he wasn’t on his broom anymore — he was whirling through the air with speed, falling rapidly from the sky, heading straight towards the Lake, and —
He was now swimming in the Lake, looking around through his — eyes? But how could he see? He raised his hands to his face, and saw that they were webbed; they looked green and ghostly under the water — but he had no time; he was supposed to be looking for something, something very dear to him, something that he would sorely miss…
He swam frantically, this way and that, without any sense of direction, without any idea of where he needed to go, only that he had to go there — for what? He didn’t know that either — the water was become darker, murkier — it was difficult to see; blurred shapes were moving in the distance — he had to get there, fast!
And still he swam, still he pushed himself to keep going…don’t give up, Harry, don’t give up…the blurred outlines were taking shape — they looked like men with hooded cloaks, moving towards a tall figure, who looked pale even from a distance — he sped up, for he had to get there, yet he dreaded what he would see…
And then he heard a scream — the scream of a girl, who sounded like she was being dragged forcefully…he had to help her, get her to safety…faster, swim faster…and then —
‘Get away from me, Tom!’
Harry’s insides went cold — colder than it ever could go even in the depths of the Black Lake; that was Ginny’s voice, and she was screaming at ‘Tom’ to let her go — Tom Riddle.
‘No, no — go away! Go away, Tom — don’t hurt me — please!’
Harry’s eyes snapped open. It took him a moment to get his bearings — he was not swimming in the depths of the Black Lake, but was sleeping in the sofa in the Gryffindor common room. It was still dark outside: he surmised he’d barely slept for an hour or two. The fire was still burning — albeit less intensely — but the cause of him suddenly wakening was not the increased chill in the common room.
‘Please, please…don’t make me, Tom, don’t make me…I don’t want to — please…’
Harry looked up, his heart pounding in his ribcage, adrenaline suddenly soaring once more in his blood. Ginny had fallen asleep on the small armchair, curled up in a foetal-like position — but she was moaning frantically, desperately…her back arched, and her arms swiped the air around her, as though she was trying to push someone invisible away from her…
‘Please, Tom — I don’t — no — please…’
Harry scrambled out of the sofa and rushed to Ginny’s side, careful to avoid her still flailing arms. ‘Ginny!’ he said hoarsely, shaking her shoulder. ‘Ginny, c’mon, wake up —’
‘What am I doing — what have I done Tom? I don’t remember what I did — Tom? Tom!’
Ginny opened her eyes; she was shaking uncontrollably, and looked positively terrified. Her eyes darted wildly from here to there; then, her gaze fell on Harry, half-sitting on the arm-rest of her chair, one hand on her shoulder to wake her, and steady her trembling, wearing a concerned expression on his face; she buried her face in his chest and promptly burst into tears.
Harry felt extremely uncomfortable, and completely out of place. He never did well with crying people, much less crying girls — and this was Ginny Weasley — the girl whose giggle he’d found endearing — bawling her eyes out as she sobbed into his chest, her tears soaking his shirt.
He supposed he had to comfort her after her nightmare — but his arms were still by his side, and he did not know where he was supposed to put them without upsetting Ginny further. He settled for raising his right hand and slowly patting her back.
‘Ginny, don’t cry — it’s alright, everything’s alright —’ he muttered, trying to sound soothing and comforting.
It took Ginny a good five minutes to stop crying and calm down; however, she did not move from her position, her head still resting sideways on Harry’s chest as she softly hiccupped now and then. Harry, too, did not cease his patting of Ginny’s back — he did not know why he found that action as soothing for him as it would have been for her — and oddly enough, inexplicably, he found himself just as unwilling to move from his position.
A few minutes of silence passed. Neither Harry nor Ginny had moved from their position of an awkward hug. Harry, whose chin was now gently resting on the top of Ginny’s head, glanced down at her. Ginny’s eyes — at least the one he could see anyway — was red and blotchy; there were tear-streaks down her cheek, and her skin looked quite pale, the freckles standing out in sharp contrast.
Her hummed response vibrated in his chest, and for some unknown reason, it made him feel content.
‘What was your nightmare about?’
Harry felt her stiffen immediately under his right arm, which he’d half wrapped around her. He glanced down again, and noticed that her eyes were filling with tears once more. He hastily backtracked.
‘Oh, no, don’t bother — I didn’t mean to — I’m sorry,’ he stammered out, but Ginny shook her head, as though asking him to shut up — which he did. The action had made him lift his chin from her soft hair; Harry caught a wisp of some flowery scent from her hair as she did so.
He silently berated himself — he’d known it was about Tom Riddle, so why did he have to go and ask her to reveal details about it? Stupid prat, he scolded himself angrily; Ginny had suffered greatly at the hands of Tom Riddle in her first year at Hogwarts itself. She doesn’t need to be reminded of that…
‘It was him,’ she said in a soft voice; Harry strained his ears to listen to her over the suddenly noisy crackling of flames nearby. ‘He was controlling me, just like — just like he did before.’ She sniffed loudly, clearly trying to stop herself from crying once again.
Harry knew what she was talking about — Tom Riddle had possessed her, had forced her to open the Chamber of Secrets two years ago. Harry couldn’t even imagine the horrors Ginny would have gone through during that time, and the thought that she was going through the same, or even remotely similar, experiences, even now, was terrifying. Automatically, Harry began to stroke her hair — at least the portion that cascaded down her back.
‘What was he making you do?’ he murmured quietly.
It took Ginny a while to respond to this; when she did, it was in a slightly shaking voice.
‘He wanted me to — to kill you,’ whispered Ginny, her whole frame trembling. ‘You were…bound to something — some headstone I reckon, and I was to k-kill you.’ She stuttered out the last few words; Harry dimly noticed his shirt becoming wetter — she was evidently crying again.
‘Losing his touch, isn’t he?’ asked Harry lightly, and Ginny gave a half-laugh, half-sob that was muffled against his shirt. ‘He’s tried to do me in since I was a year old — I’m pretty sure he won’t succeed again.’
Ginny laughed again, this time clearer. She put her arms around Harry, locking them behind his back and enclosing him in a warm, still awkward hug. For his part, Harry wrapped his left arm around her and squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
They sat in silence for a few more minutes, neither of them willing to move from the comfortable position they were in. Then, Harry voiced out his next question.
‘How long have you been having these nightmares, Ginny?’
This time, however, Ginny did not stiffen, nor did she cry. But she did take a good while to respond.
‘I used to have them every night during the summer after my first year,’ she began. ‘Nightmares about the entire thing — killing the roosters, writing those messages on the wall, opening the Chamber… Professor Dumbledore said it was the after-effect of such an experience — post traumatic, disorder, whatever. He said they would stop after a while, that I had to just bear with them.’
Harry didn’t know why she was telling him this — he thought his question warranted a simple answer. But it seemed as though Ginny hadn’t spoken about this to anyone at all. Harry felt a wave of guilt wash over him — despite saving her from the Chamber, he hadn’t bothered to check on how she was doing after the entire experience. He owed it to her to at least listen to her now.
‘I did bear with them — so did Mum and Dad, and my brothers, apparently. They were worse, much worse than what you saw today, Harry…I couldn’t sleep for some nights; when I shut my eyes, I could see his pale face, his cold grey eyes staring malevolently back at me…’ She gave a small shudder.
‘It’s been better over the last two years, though; I began to accept that it was his fault that everything had happened, and not mine; that being hoodwinked by him was not something I had to be ashamed of. In fact…’ she paused for a moment, ‘I haven’t really had a nightmare since the start of this school year. Tonight was the first time…and it was quite different from the previous ones…very different.
‘He’s never asked me to kill anyone on my own; and you’ve never appeared before either.’
Despite the seriousness of the conversation, Harry just couldn’t resist it. ‘Never dreamt about me, have you?’ he asked with a smirk.
‘Prat,’ retorted Ginny immediately, but she, too, was grinning; Harry could feel the heat creeping up her face, but decided not to tease her further about it. ‘I mean, you’ve never appeared in these nightmares. And tonight’s was so real…’
Harry slowly removed his arms from around her, coaxing her to do the same so that he could slide off the arm-rest of the chair and stand up. Ginny followed suit.
What was left of the firelight glinted off her warm, brown eyes as Ginny stood up, facing Harry. She was a good inch or two shorter than he was, and her thin frame was shivering slightly in the cold — the fire was dying out. And as she stood there before him, Harry began to see her, for the first time in three years, in a different light — a young girl, strong and courageous, brave and kind, determined to fight her battles on her own — fight them, and succeed. She was not just Ron’s baby sister anymore — she was Ginny Weasley, a person of her own.
And a rather cute person too, Harry thought, and immediately hit himself mentally with a broomstick; but it was true: Ginny, though quite young, was attractive and pretty for her age. Harry wondered how he’d never noticed it before.
‘They’re just dreams, Ginny,’ he said quietly. ‘Just — bad dreams. Don’t worry about them, they’re not worth it. And they’re certainly not real.’
He’d asked her to stand up so that he could lead her to her dormitories; instead, on sheer impulse, he reached out and placed his hands on her shoulders, giving them an encouraging squeeze before letting go and dropping them to his sides.
Ginny smiled at him, a warm smile that resulted in Harry’s stomach doing an odd sort of backflip.
She yawned widely all of a sudden, as though sleep had suddenly decided to hit her. Harry chuckled.
‘Looks like you need to get to bed, Miss Weasley,’ he said, grinning at her.
‘Prat,’ she said once again, but she was still smiling as she turned and moved to the staircase leading to the girl’s dormitories. ‘Right then…good night, Harry.’
‘Good night, Ginny,’ he replied, already lying down on the sofa in front of the fire. He was asleep almost immediately, and did not notice Ginny looking back at him from the foot of the stairs, a contented and happy smile on her face.
Harry had no more dreams, nightmares, or any other disturbances that night. He slept peacefully, his body regaining its strength after his energy had been sapped by the night’s adventures. In fact, he was sleeping so soundly, he didn’t get up even when students began streaming into the common room in the morning, some of them already dressed and ready for the day’s lessons.
It was only when Ron came down from the fourth-year dormitories to the common room, found Harry on the sofa and shook him awake, that he woke up.
‘Whassamatter?’ he slurred sleepily. He’d forgotten to remove his glasses before he’d crashed — one side of it was digging into his face painfully, and he winced.
‘What are you doing down here?’ asked Ron in a worried voice. And then, more quietly, he said, ‘When did you get back last night? Did you figure out the egg?’
‘W-what?’ yawned Harry. His mind seemed incapable of processing any of the questions Ron had posed to him at the moment. He desperately needed a good long shower to wake himself up — and he said so to Ron as he got up from the sofa and trudged up the staircase to the dormitories.
‘I’ll wait down here then,’ called Ron after his retreating back; Harry flashed him the thumbs-up in response.
The long, hot shower worked wonders for him — combined with the good night’s sleep, he felt extremely refreshed and revitalised. He dressed quickly and rushed down the stairs, to find Ron and Hermione waiting for him near the fire.
‘About time,’ said Ron impatiently. ‘C’mon, I’m starving.’
They set off to the Great Hall for breakfast. It was a Friday, and the weekend mood had already set in for some of the students, who were chattering and laughing loudly with each other. Unfortunately, this meant that Harry could not recount what had happened last night to Ron and Hermione, as they were surrounded by so many students in the corridors.
It was only when they reached the Great Hall that Harry felt a semblance of relief — they had passed most of the student population in the corridors, and the Hall was mostly empty, save for the staff and a few stragglers on the House tables. They crossed the Hall, past the Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables and seated themselves at the Gryffindor table at the far side of the Hall.
Harry looked up at the staff table as they began loading their plates. Tiny Professor Flitwick was perched upon a pile of cushions, conversing in his high-pitched voice with Professor Sprout, her hair as flyaway as ever. Next to her was the tall, thin Astronomy mistress, Professor Sinistra, who was finishing the last morsels on her plate. Further along the table, Hagrid was drinking deeply from his goblet, while Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore were in what seemed to be a serious conversation, their heads bent low towards each other as they whispered away.
Harry noticed that neither Snape nor Moody was present at the table. Harry knew Moody — the real Moody — probably wouldn’t have recovered in time to join the staff, but Snape? Had he been so badly injured from the glass and the Cruciatus last night that he couldn’t recover in time? For probably the first time in his life, Harry felt a small tinge of worry for his Potions Master — would he be alright?
He was distracted from his thoughts by the arrival of Ginny, who plonked herself in the seat opposite Harry and next to Ron, and — to her brother’s annoyance — grabbed a piece of toast from his plate.
‘Thanks Ron, I’m famished,’ she said, polishing off the toast in two quick bites. She moved to take another one, but Ron pushed her hand away.
‘Oi, get you own food!’ he said, accidentally spraying Harry with bits of egg. ‘Oops, sorry, Harry —’ He swallowed and glared at his sister.
‘Hi, Ginny,’ said Hermione quickly, looking to stave off a potential sibling argument so early in the day.
‘Hello, Hermione!’ she said brightly. ‘Hey, Harry.’
Harry could definitely see her blushing this time as she greeted him with a smile — the colour was staining her cheeks quite clearly; he felt himself turning slightly red as he returned her greeting.
‘Hey, Ginny,’ he said. ‘Sleep okay?’ She nodded, still blushing furiously.
Ginny had always been taken with Harry since they’d first met, so her embarrassed reaction was usually considered as quite normal. Hermione, however, was staring at Harry with a curious look; Harry had never blushed when conversing with Ginny below.
Ron, thankfully, hadn’t noticed anything; he was trying to push Ginny’s hand away as she made a grab for another piece of toast.
Hermione opened her mouth to say something to Harry, but was cut off by the appearance of Professor McGonagall next to the group. Ron and Ginny stopped grappling for the toast piece — which fell to the floor — and looked up at the Head of Gryffindor house.
‘Potter,’ she said in her usual brisk tone, ‘the Headmaster would like to have a word with you once you are done with breakfast.’
‘Oh — okay,’ said Harry. He assumed Dumbledore wanted to speak about last night. He looked up at the staff table, but Dumbledore’s magnificent chair at the centre of the table was empty. ‘Where should I —’
‘His office, Potter,’ said Professor McGonagall. ‘He says you know the password to get inside.’
‘Oh — yes, I do, Professor,’ said Harry. ‘Thank you.’
Professor McGonagall gave him a curt nod, said, ‘Good day to you three,’ to the others, and swept off.
‘Why does Dumbledore want to talk to you?’ asked Ron immediately.
Harry hesitated. Now would be the best time for him to explain what had happened — but Dumbledore had given him permission to speak about it with only Ron and Hermione. He couldn’t say anything while Ginny was around — although it felt like as though he was keeping secrets from her.
‘Dunno,’ he said, shrugging, and it was sort of true — he didn’t really know why Dumbledore wanted to have a word with him.
‘You’d better get going then, or you’ll be late for Charms,’ said Hermione, looking at her watch.
‘Yeah,’ said Harry, a little distractedly. He stood up from his seat, drained the rest of his orange juice in a single gulp, and hurried out of the Great Hall.
Harry took the stairs on the marble staircase two at a time, weaving in between the students walking on it. The corridors were not as full as before; most students seemed to have either gone straight to their first classes of the day, or were up in their common rooms and dormitories, gathering their things.
A minute later, he was in front of the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. He gave it the password, and the statue leapt to the side, allowing Harry to climb the moving, circular steps to the office.
‘Come in,’ said Dumbledore’s voice as Harry knocked the brass door-knocker in the shape of a griffon. He pushed the polished oak door open and stepped inside. The office looked as magnificent and interesting as ever, though much brighter in the sunlight than it had been at night. The occupants of the portraits adorning the walls were all awake, and looked around with interest as Harry walked over to sit behind Dumbledore’s desk.
‘Ah, good morning, Harry,’ said Dumbledore cheerfully. ‘Sleep well?’
‘Err-yes, Professor,’ said Harry, slightly perplexed. Surely Dumbledore hadn’t called him up to his office to ask how he’d slept…
‘Good,’ said Dumbledore. ‘I apologise for asking you to visit my office so early this morning, but I did not think it wise to tell you what I had to in front of everyone else.’
‘That’s alright, Professor.’
Dumbledore smiled at him. ‘Very well. You will be pleased to know that, as per the imposter’s information, we were able to reach the real Alastor Moody and initiate his recovery.’
Harry felt a small wave of relief tide over him. ‘That’s great! How is he, sir?’
Dumbledore’s smile faltered slightly. ‘Not too good, I’m afraid. He’s very weak — Stunned, controlled by the Imperius curse for almost five months…no, I do not think he will be able to return to a normal life for at least another six weeks. And even after that, it may not be best for him to assume the role of a teacher at Hogwarts.’
Harry’s feeling of relief washed away almost immediately. ‘So — who’s going to teach us Defence Against the Dark Arts, then? Sir,’ he added quickly.
Dumbledore gazed at him for a moment through his half-moon spectacles, perched upon his long, crooked nose. His brilliant blue eyes were twinkling.
‘I have reached out to an old colleague of mine,’ he said, ‘but it is proving to be difficult in persuading him to return to Hogwarts. I am confident he will accept, however, and I shall announce his appointment on Monday.’
Harry frowned slightly — Dumbledore sounded like an overexcited child struggling to keep a big secret. Surely the appointment of a new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor had to be a worrisome affair; none of Harry’s previous teachers had lasted for over a year — and the current one had been in the job for barely four months. To have to appoint a new teacher for the remainder of the school year — with no guarantee of him staying for the next — was not something Harry would have looked forward to, or would have been cheerful about.
Suddenly, another memory from last night arose in Harry’s mind. ‘Sir, what happened to Crouch Junior? And Mr Crouch — did they manage to rescue him?’
‘Madam Bones arrived this morning to take young Crouch Junior away to the Ministry; I believe he is currently being held at a Ministry holding cell, while Amelia prepares for a second, less public, criminal trial against him,’ said Dumbledore. ‘As for Mr Crouch, his house is currently being scouted by Aurors — or so Amelia tells me. I do not know when they will actually move to rescue him.’
Harry was a bit surprised at this — he’d expected Madam Bones to have rescued Mr Crouch from Lord Voldemort by now. Then again, as Dumbledore had told her, Voldemort was still a formidable adversary — whether with or without a body. Charging in to rescue someone Voldemort was around would be a foolish, reckless thing to do.
He nodded in acknowledgement of the Headmaster’s words, and, thinking that the conversation was over, turned to leave; but Dumbledore stopped him.
‘I trust you did not tell anyone about last night, Harry,’ he said calmly. ‘Apart from Mr Weasley and Miss Granger, as I told you.’
Harry looked back and shook his head. ‘No, sir. I’m going to tell them now, though, if that’s alright.’
‘And, Professor…would it be alright if I told Ginny Weasley as well?’
Harry did not know why he asked Dumbledore this question. His only thought was that telling Ron and Hermione, and not telling Ginny, wouldn’t be right — it wouldn’t be fair to her. He knew he barely knew Ginny — the real Ginny Weasley — and yet, keeping this from her seemed like he was betraying her trust.
Dumbledore merely looked at him for a few moments. Harry found the silence slightly uncomfortable, and was starting to regret asking such a question. What had possessed him to open his fat mouth? But then —
‘Very well, Harry,’ said Dumbledore at last. ‘You may tell Miss Weasley as well. But I must ask you to ask them not to repeat this to anybody else. We would not want the news to get out that Barty Crouch Junior has been captured, for if it reaches Voldemort’s ears, the information we gleaned from the imposter would be all for naught.’
Harry nodded again.
‘Very well, then,’ said Dumbledore once again. ‘Off you go.’
Harry turned to leave; he was already late by five minutes for Charms — but thinking about Charms and Professor Flitwick brought another question to his mind — about another Professor.
‘Sir…what about Professor Snape?’
Dumbledore gave him a searching look.
‘He is…shaken, by the events of last night, but he will make a complete recovery.’
Harry had not expected anything else — either from Snape in terms of a reaction, or from Dumbledore in terms of a response. But he had just one last question to ask…
‘Sir, during the trial…Mr Crouch mentioned Frank and Alice Longbottom…was he talking about Neville’s parents?’
Dumbledore gave him a sharp look.
‘Has Neville never told you about his parents, Harry? About why he has been raised by his grandmother?’
Harry shook his head, dreading the answer, but wanting to know it anyway…
‘Yes, he was talking about Neville’s parents,’ said Dumbledore heavily. ‘Frank and Alice were Aurors at the Ministry — just like the real Alastor Moody — and they were extremely popular. As you heard, the Lestranges and Crouch Junior had been charged with the use of the Cruciatus curse on the Longbottoms.’ Dumbledore sighed. ‘The attack on them caused a wave of fury through the wizarding society like no one had ever seen before. It pressured the Ministry to act swiftly and mercilessly — you heard the applause the Council of Magical Law received for awarding that punishment.’
Harry nodded silently — he could definitely recall the expressions of savage, vindictive triumph on most of the faces in that courtroom, as the culprits were led away.
‘Are…are they dead then?’ asked Harry quietly.
‘No,’ said Dumbledore, his voice full of a bitterness Harry had never heard before. ‘They are insane. The pain and the torture broke their minds; they are alive…but they do not live. They do not recognise anyone — not even Neville or Augusta, I believe.’
Harry was thunderstruck. Not once had he bothered to find out from Neville…not once in four long years had he even cared…
‘Harry, I must ask you not to speak of Neville’s parents to anyone. It would not be fair to Mr Longbottom — I think he has the right to tell others, when he is ready.’
Harry nodded mutely, still too stunned to speak. He couldn’t imagine how it must be for poor Neville — having parents who were alive, but could not recognise him at all…
And as he bade Dumbledore a good day, and left the office, his eagerness at waiting for the day to finish quickly, so that he could tell Ron, Hermione, and — more importantly, oddly enough — Ginny, what had happened last night, faded quickly; he often got sympathy from strangers for being an orphan — but as he walked slowly to the Charms classroom, his footsteps echoing off the stone floor and corridor, he felt Neville deserved it more than he did.
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