The Many Faces of Harry Potter 39

“The Many Faces of Har—er, Adira Potter: Chapter 39”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Thirty-nine: Hypatia's Gambit

Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there. But some canon scenes are just too good to change much. There's a lot of those in this one, but don't skim through or you'll miss things.

Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of Alastair, Adira, Zoey, # Iliana (bold, italic, underlined, and between hashtags/pound signs.# , {Tier}, ~Chandra,~
% Mother AKA Avani Maznah, % and “Hypatia/Megan.”

Note 4: All hail Our Lady Of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling!

*FAYANORA*

The following Friday, the morning owls came in, and as soon as Hermione saw the Daily Prophet's headline, she gasped. Iliana looked up, waited for Hermione to finish the paper, and then took it from her, since they both knew she'd see it eventually. Unsurprisingly, it was a Rita Skeeter article.

Potter's Secret Pain, and Someone to Share It With.
By = Rita Skeeter

A child like no other, perhaps, yet a child suffering from a great deal of emotional pain, and a deeply troubled past. Deprived of love at an early age by the death of Lily and James Potter, Adira Potter (formerly known as “Harry Potter,”) the Child-Who-Lived is in a relationship with one Luna Lovegood, daughter of eccentric “Quibbler” editor Xenophilius Lovegood. The two girls have been seen together a lot lately, in places such as the old (and largely abandoned) Lookout Point in Hogsmeade village, Muggle shops and a Muggle “movie theater.”

However, it is perhaps their appearance at a Muggle ice cream shop in London that most confused this reporter, as over the Easter holidays this reporter witnessed Ms. Potter, who claims to be multiple people in a single body, have a panic attack and then a breakdown at the sight of her former guardians, the Dursley family of Little Whinging, Surrey. Ms. Potter had to be secretly taken away from the shop under cover of a noisy disturbance in order to not be spotted in turn by the Dursleys, still in a panic attack. She was then taken to a private room at The Leaky Cauldron, where she had a tearful breakdown and had to be comforted by Ms. Lovegood.

At the time of the incident, Ms. Potter was in the form of the person-in-her-head she calls Iliana, who bears an uncanny resemblance to her dead mother Lily Potter, but with James's eyes. Ms. Potter was scared that Mrs. Dursley – Lily Potter's sister – would see “Iliana” wearing her dead sister's face and pitch such a fit that Obliviators would need to contain the situation.

The sheer amount of terror Ms. Potter had at the sight of the Dursleys was alarming and confusing, so this reporter went about trying to find out why. What I found was nothing short of scandalous. According to the last will and testament of Lily and James Potter, young Adira (then “Harry”) Potter was, in the event of their death, to go to Sirius Black if available (which he was not, being held without trial in Azkaban), or with Alice Longbottom if possible (tragically she was not) or Andromeda Tonks and her husband Ted Tonks if neither of them were available.

However, none of these things happened. Instead of doing as their will requested, eccentric Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore abused his power as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and took it upon himself to put Adira Potter up with her aunt, Mrs. Dursley, and her husband Mr. Dursley. From interviews this reporter has done with several people for this article, that move was extremely controversial among those who knew about it. The consensus was that Mrs. Dursley and her husband hated magic and anyone who used it, to a degree similar to anti-witchcraft hate groups like the New Salem Philanthropic Society back in the states during the 1920's.

Digging deeper, this reporter discovered that when he was still known as Harry, very few members of Little Whinging knew of the boy's existence until he started going to school, and he was only permitted to wear hand-me-downs from his enormously fat cousin Dudley Dursley despite Mr. Dursley being a director at a Muggle company called Grunnings, which makes drills, and thus the family being wealthy enough they could easily have spoiled both children, not just their own son. They owned a nice house in a nice neighborhood, had a nice car, and their son Dudley wanted for nothing. Meanwhile, Adira/Harry was wearing clothes several sizes too big for him, cheap glasses that had to be held together with cellotape, and was made to live in a cupboard under the stairs. It is not known if he was beaten, but it appears he was neglected, fed just enough to keep him alive and not looking too abused, made to do nearly all the household chores while Dudley did none, and was bullied frequently by Dudley and his friends while the Dursleys looked the other way.

What is worse, there's no indication at all that Dumbledore or anyone else in the wizarding world checked up on Potter for all those years. The first magical person Potter ever truly encountered in all those years was Dumbledore himself, which only happened in the summer before Potter's first year at Hogwarts, when Dumbledore responded to Potter understandably using accidental magic to sic venomous snakes on his evil relatives, and then run away from them.

This all begs the question: why did Dumbledore put the savior of wizarding Britain in a home with people who clearly hated him, against the clear wishes of Lily and James? There were a great many wizarding families who would gladly have taken him in. Even Hogwarts could have taken Potter in as a ward; in fact, this is exactly what happened at the end of Potter's first year at Hogwarts, until Sirius Black was declared innocent and was able to take Potter in as the Potters' will demanded. So we must all ask Dumbledore why he felt it necessary to endanger Potter this way, putting her with people who could easily have turned Potter into the first obscurial in the world since the 1920's.

What's more, we must find out why former Minister Millicent Bagnode allowed Dumbledore to do this, and find out who else knew yet remained silent. For it is clear that those years in the “care” of the Dursleys did a great deal of mental damage to Potter, if she's claiming to be multiple people in one body, especially if the claim is true; after all, Muggle sykyatrists who believe in the condition known as Multiple Personality Disorder believe that the condition is caused by extreme childhood trauma.

Thankfully, for all this scandal and pain, at least Potter has someone to help her through it. May Ms. Potter and Ms. Lovegood continue to be good for each other for years to come.

Iliana and the others didn't know what to think about this, but she felt the heat in her face from the shame of having the truth about the Dursleys revealed. But they did wonder, already, how the bloody hell Skeeter had found out? Skeeter stood out like a sore thumb; how had she spied on them at the Muggle ice cream shop and then again at the Leaky Cauldron, in a private room no less?

Finally, she said, “Well, at least now people might be a little less stupid about the Boy-Who-Lived crap. Apparently most people think I was living in a mansion and being trained in defense magic the whole time. Which might explain part of why Snape hated Addy so much when she was Harry, if he believed all that rubbish.”

They looked up at Snape then. He was reading the paper with a look of growing (if suppressed) fury on his face. He kept glaring at Dumbledore as though to say 'We are going to talk about this later,' but Dumbledore wasn't paying attention. He, too, was reading the article. He looked annoyed that Skeeter had dug up the truth, but also a lot more... resigned. As though he'd been waiting for this day to happen, and it finally had. And now that it had, he also looked tired.

The whole school ended up talking about it, and Iliana and the others were quickly getting tired of it. A great many of the Slytherins were using it as proof that Muggles were evil and so were Muggleborns while simultaneously pretending to have sympathy for Iliana etc as an excuse to remind them of things the article had said. But worst was the genuine sympathy from students in other Houses, most of whom had rarely if ever spoken to them, people who Iliana and the others had heard calling them a freak or an attention seeking liar before.

About the strangest thing to happen though was that afternoon's Potions class. Snape was avoiding looking at them for some reason, and seemed a lot more angry than usual, at one point tapping the blackboard with his wand so forcefully that the slate cracked from the force of the spell, and he'd had to repair it. Yet that still wasn't the weirdest thing he did that day.

Malfoy had been flashing his old “Potter stinks” badge at them, sitting right behind Iliana and saying things that were making her blood begin to boil. But before she could turn around to hex him or tell him off, Malfoy's laughter was interrupted by a hand on his shoulder. He stopped at once and looked up at the angry face of Professor Snape.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Snape said coldly. “This potion is rather sensitive, and prone to exploding at the slightest mistake. You are dangerously close to causing two such explosions, with your antics. If you cannot sit behind Ms. Potter and Mr. Longbottom without distracting them, then maybe you and Mr. Goyle should trade places with Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley?”

Malfoy's face registered confusion and hurt. Iliana remembered hearing somewhere that Snape was Malfoy's godfather, hence why he favored Malfoy so much. It also explained Malfoy's expression.

“I'll behave, Professor.”

“I'm not so sure of that, Mr. Malfoy. When I said to trade with Granger and Weasley, that was not actually a suggestion.”

“Yes, Professor,” he said meekly, he and Goyle packing up their stuff to trade places. Luckily, everyone was still in the 'preparing ingredients' stage, which made moving easier.

Neville and Iliana looked at each other, shocked, but didn't speak in case Snape decided he had to be consistent for once.

“And Mr. Malfoy, ten points from Slytherin for endangering everyone in the room,” Snape added before sitting down.

The room filled with low mutters at this, which Snape ignored for several minutes before looking up and silencing everyone without saying a word. Nobody could remember Snape ever taking points from a Slytherin before, except for that one time when Malfoy and Al had been trading hexes in the corridor before class.

Iliana glanced at Malfoy briefly. He looked stunned and betrayed, and was quietly cutting up his potions ingredients with a far-off look in his face.

Three-quarters of the way through the class, Karkaroff came into the room and was trying to talk to Snape.

“Later,” they heard Snape hiss. “After class.”

~

“W-what was that all about?” Neville asked her at dinner. “You know, with Snape and Malfoy? And then Snape and Karkaroff?”

“Yeah, Iliana, tell us,” Ron said. Iliana had hung back after class pretending to have spilled something.

“I suspect the thing with Malfoy is because, well, Snape looked pissed at the Skeeter article this morning. I think he didn't realize I'd been neglected and stuff. And as for Karkaroff, he tried showing Snape something on his arm again. Said it was getting clearer, whatever that means.”

Nobody looked like they had a clue.

I need to get some divination materials, maybe a tarot deck or something. See if there's a decent book at the bookstores in Hogsmeade to teach myself this stuff, because Trelawney is no help, Al said in her head. Then maybe I can get some more information on stuff like this.

~

Dumbledore sat in his office, leaning his head on his hands, too tired and upset to work, even though he had much to do. So it didn't help his mood when his wards told him Professor Snape was coming up the stairs. He sighed heavily and sat up, ready for the knock.

When it came, he said, “Come in, Severus.”

He'd been halfway through that sentence when the door started opening, slamming against the wall as he finished, making him wince despite himself. Severus came in and slammed the door shut with magic.

Coming over to Dumbledore's desk, he slammed the morning's paper on the desk, Skeeter's article visible.

“Is this true, Dumbledore? Did you really ignore Lily's wishes and put her child with her magic-hating sister Petunia and that horrible evil sack of lard she married?”

Dumbledore sighed wearily. “I'm afraid so, Severus.”

Snape's fury climbed so high he had to speak through clenched teeth. “Why... of all the foolish things... would you do that?”

“Lily sacrificed her life to save Adira's life. I do not know how she managed it. I've heard of it happening before with lesser curses, of course, but never with the Killing Curse.”

“And why is that relevant?”

“Because of her sacrifice, it enabled me to cast my own spell. A form of ritual magic, but one of the more Light-leaning ones. This ritual cast powerful magic to keep that sacrifice going. So long as Adira called the place where her mother's blood lived 'home,' she would be protected from Voldemort and his followers. And as to the insinuation of more physical forms of abuse, the ritual would have prevented that as well. Yes, they neglected Adira, and mistreated her, putting her through emotional abuse and the abuse of neglect. But they did not physically hurt her. Well, I suspect Dudley was able to hurt her, but I do not think the spell takes childhood bullying into account. Or 'took,' rather. When she became a ward of Hogwarts, she would no longer be calling her aunt's house home, and thus the spell would be broken. She is vulnerable to him and his people now. And as you keep insisting he is getting stronger, well...”

“I see,” Severus said. “So it's true. You were a fool. And you didn't even check up on her?”

“Arabella Figg lived in the neighborhood. She still does, I believe, despite the fact the Potters do not anymore. I had Mrs. Figg keeping an eye on her. Apparently it was not good enough.”

Speaking through his teeth again, Snape said, “Of course it was not good enough, Dumbledore! Abusers can pretend to be perfectly decent people. They can hide the fact they are abusers from outsiders. Did it not worry you that she was dressing in extremely oversized clothes? Plainly they did that to hide how thin she had to have been, you realize?”

“The thought had occurred to me since I discovered the truth.”

“They need to be prosecuted, Dumbledore! And you know the public is going to demand it! Fudge will jump on this chance to look better than you, especially with Lucius pushing him toward it. Which means the Dursleys will be brought in and prosecuted, probably under our laws. Tell me, do you think they will end up in Azkaban?”

“I do not know, Severus. Possibly. The dementors do affect Muggles as well, even though Muggles cannot see them.”

“They'd deserve it. But you do realize they might come after you next? And claiming ignorance will not help your situation; you should have known better in the first place, and you should have checked up on the child better! Made visits into the house! It might still have happened, but it would have been a little easier on her, as they would have had to give her better accommodations than a cupboard under the stairs!

“I know, Severus!” Dumbledore said, sorrow making his voice crack. The twinkle in his blue eyes was gone now, replaced with the wet of tears. They did not fall, because he wiped them away with a handkerchief, but still they had been there.

“I know it was a mistake, Severus. I know I got so caught up in my own clever plan to protect Adira from Voldemort and his Death Eaters that I did not do a good enough job making sure she was alright. I know that I should have made her a ward of Hogwarts, or let her go to Andromeda Tonks, and just put them under every ward available. Hell, I could even have taken her in myself, to one of the properties my parents left me, and lived there with her, letting her be minded by someone trustworthy. I made grave miscalculations, Severus, I am aware of that. Every time I remember what happened to her, every time I recall what I have seen in their eyes over the years, it hurts my heart all over again. If I could go back in time and undo the mistake, I would. But I cannot. Time turners do not even go back that far; they cannot be made to go back that far.”

Dumbledore put his head on one of his hands, looking at Severus with a drawn and weary expression. Some of Snape's anger melted at the sight, but not most of it.

“I am starting to think that the people who say I am an old man losing my grip may have a point. I am doing too much, Severus. Headmaster of Hogwarts, teacher of alchemy classes, Supreme Mugwump of the ICW, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, occlumency lessons with the Potters, and recently I have begun doing research on Voldemort's past in hopes of putting a permanent end to him. I think perhaps I should start considering one or two of these things to retire from. Perhaps find someone else to be Chief Warlock or Supreme Mugwump. I have a few good candidates in mind for Supreme Mugwump, at the very least.”

“If you feel that way, I could take over Potter's occlumency lessons for you. We have been getting along a little better lately.”

“You have? How has this transpired, Severus?”

After a hesitation, Snape said, “I was impressed by their solution to the problem of keeping warm in the Black Lake, and even more impressed that they asked me permission to use the Potions lab and school ingredients they didn't have for the potion instead of just stealing things and brewing it secretly in a bathroom. When I picked Iliana's brain about my improvements to the potion, I was astounded at her intelligence and knowledge of potions ingredients. I realized I had been misjudging them, so I started to give her extra lessons. I later invited Miss Granger to join the classes too, since she was capable of brewing Polyjuice Potion in her second year.”

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled a little again. “Really, Severus? I thought you hated teaching.”

“I hate teaching imbeciles, which describes the majority of the students I have to teach. Even Draco Malfoy is only slightly above the average in my class, despite the lessons I gave him before he came to Hogwarts.”

“I see. And how would you describe the progress Miss Potter and Miss Granger are making?”

Snape paused a moment before speaking. “Miss Granger, for all her exceptional ability to follow directions and somehow manage to brew potions far beyond her years, is not terribly creative. I have at least managed to teach her to think about the directions and fix mistakes she spots, even make occasional improvements, though. She lacks creativity, though, as I said. She will some day be able to brew complex potions like the Wolfsbane Potion, but I doubt she'll be able to invent her own potions, not using her own ideas anyway.

“As to Iliana Potter, she's something else altogether. She's not as intellectual as Granger, has a harder time grasping some of the more complex concepts in potion-making that I've introduced her to, and is several years behind Granger, with her progress catching up being a bit slower than I had hoped. But she has the creativity that Miss Granger lacks. If I can get her up to Miss Granger's aptitude or higher, I would not be surprised if Iliana Potter invented an entirely new potion for her N.E.W.T. project, and went on to invent even more new potions, or making improvements to existing ones.”

“So you predict she will get the high pass grade you expect from your N.E.W.T. students, in her O.W.L.s next year?”

“She has made enough progress since February that she could probably get an A+ if she took the O.W.L. in Potions today. Give me another year with her, and she'll easily achieve an E or even an O in the subject.”

“High praise coming from you, Severus.”

“Yes. But we have gotten off topic. What are you going to do about this?” he was pointing at the paper again.

Dumbledore sighed. “I will admit my mistake publicly. I will see if the Potters will say something sympathetic about my blunder for the press, though I will be speaking with someone other than Skeeter of course. But the point is I will admit my mistake. I will admit that I did not realize how bad Petunia and her husband were. I will admit that I presumed the fact she took Adira in meant she had forgiven her sister. I--”

“You didn't exactly give her much of a choice, from what Minerva told me. She said you just left the child on the stoop, and Minerva had to watch the child in her cat form, even though she'd already been there all day long. You left her on the stoop, in a basket, in November!”

“She had a warming charm and a blanket in the basket. And I put other spells on it, such as a don't-notice-me that was set to break when the door opened, as well as temporary protection wards using a bit of runic casting. She was safe, Severus.”

“I see. Well the fact still remains, Petunia didn't really have a choice in the matter, did she?”

“The thing is, Severus, the way the spell works, Petunia would have had to feel at least a little love for Adira when she took her in, or the spell would not have locked into place. Which is part of why I was so shocked at the neglect in that household. I have a theory about why that was, of course. And of course Hogwarts would have protected the other students around her from the same thing happening, given the accidental nature of the thing,” he said vaguely.

“What are you talking about, Dumbledore?”

Dumbledore looked up from his navel-gazing and turned to consider Severus instead, thinking for several more moments.

“I am sorry, Severus,” he said at last, “but I cannot be more explicit yet. Voldemort is getting stronger. According to Adira, he is in a functional, if hideous, homunculus body, capable of wielding a wand and he is waiting to rise again. What he is waiting for, I do not know. Given the rituals I know that are options for him, and given his last known location, I am rather surprised he hasn't already come back to life. Granted, some of the ingredients are hard to come by and even harder to brew properly, but he was in a homunculus body as early as August, and it is now the end of April. He has had eight whole months to rise again, yet he has not. It concerns me greatly.

“But getting back on track, I believe you offered to take over Adira's occlumency? I appreciate the offer, Severus, and I may take you up on it, but not yet. I want to have a couple more lessons with her before I pass her on to you.”

“If you say so.”

The two men sat staring at one another for a while longer.

“Was there something else, Severus?”

“What becomes of me if your plan of 'admitting your mistake' doesn't work? What if you are once more forced to step down as Headmaster?”

“Oh, that is not the only part of my plan. I believe I will step down as Supreme Mugwump of the ICW. Give me another day to think, and I believe I will have an acceptable replacement. Hopefully the two things together will mollify enough people.”

“Do you not think it more possible people will assume that stepping down as Supreme Mugwump says you are not fit for your other positions too?”

“Perhaps. I may even retire from Chief Warlock if I can find an acceptable replacement there as well. But even if I must give up being Chief Warlock as well, I am too fond of Hogwarts to want to leave. Yes, actually that is the more important thing to step down from, as I abused that position to override the Potter will. I shall miss it, but at the same time I think it will be a relief. I had not been admitting it to myself, but it is rather a lot of work I've been doing lately, and I must reconsider my priorities given the Voldemort situation.”

“The Dark Lord may be coming back, and your answer is to give yourself less power?”

Dumbledore's expression changed to something odd, like a mix of humor and something like regret. “I have a very complicated relationship with power, Severus. More than I've ever told you. I will find replacements for those two positions, making sure that the replacements will be ones who stand with me against Voldemort when the time comes. And mollifying the people by stepping down from two such positions of power may make people more likely to believe me when Voldemort finally returns.

“Oh by the way, I believe Minerva does too much as well. Deputy Headmistress is a full time job on its own without being also Head of House and a teacher. From what I have heard, she doesn't give her students enough attention. You and the other two Heads of House gave career counseling back at the end of second year, did you not?”

“Yes. It is important in picking which extra courses to take.”

“Indeed. And Minerva did not do such a thing. She hasn't for many years, not since becoming Deputy Headmistress. If you would send her up when you leave so she and I may discuss it, I would appreciate that.”

“Are you going to demote her?” Snape looked torn between amusement and pity for the woman.

“No. Just going to try to convince her to give herself a little less work to do, as I plan to do.”

“That is fraught with difficulty, Dumbledore. Say she steps down as Head of House Griffindor; who replaces her in that role? Do we even have any other Griffindor Professors, aside from her and you?”

“An excellent point, Severus. Let's see... there is Hagrid, of course. But I do not believe he's quite suited to Head of House.”

“Quite. He's even worse of a teacher than I am. And I doubt anyone else is qualified either. So she can't step down from Head of House, which means she'd either have to stop teaching, which would leave us a teacher short, or else step down as Deputy Headmistress. Of course, I could always take over as Deputy Headmaster.”

“Or Filius could. But I suppose then he would have the same problem. As would you. Hmm... never mind, do not send Minerva up after all. I may talk to her at a later date, but for now, I will not. It requires a great deal more thought.”

“I'll say.”

“If there's nothing else, Severus, you may go now. I have work to do.”

Snape nodded curtly and left the office. Dumbledore started to write a letter to his first choice to replace him as Supreme Mugwump.

~

The next day, Iliana spent most of the day with Luna and Javier, feeding the thestrals again. After dinner, though, she had an occlumency lesson with Dumbledore, which is why she found herself knocking on the door and being let in.

As soon as she had the door all the way open, she felt the assault of legilimency hit her, but that wasn't the surprising part.

Dumbledore had planned on testing her ability to resist legilimency when she wasn't expecting it, but was startled himself when he felt someone pin him down inside her mind and then ride the magical lines of force from his legilimency to invade his mind instead. Dumbledore found himself helpless, unable to see anything in the Potter mind, while being bombarded by images from his own mind. He tried employing occlumency, which normally would have been an instant lockout, but he had been taken completely by surprise, and it wasn't exactly easy to occlude a mind that was using legilimency on someone else's mind.

Finally, though, Dumbledore managed to force his wand arm up and hit Iliana with a stinging hex, which broke the contact and sent them both reeling against the wall to keep from falling over.

“What was that?” Iliana asked, looking shaken.

“You mean you do not know? I thought you had laid a trap for me. I must say, it was impressive.”

“I wouldn't know how to do something like that. LiiiiiYIKES!”

During the space of the blink of Dumbledore's eyes, Iliana changed into Hypatia. The white-haired black girl was regarding him coolly over her glasses.

“Fascinating. You were in love with Gellert Grindlewald, which is why it took you so long to finally bring him down. Your brother is the barman at The Hog's Head. Your sister, Ariana, was an obscurial who died trying to break up a fight between you and your brother. Ariana also killed your mother by accident. Unfortunately, that was all I could pull out of your mind before you hexed me.”

“That was your doing?”

“Yes. I've been doing some reading about legilimency, thanks to a book I borrowed from Draco. All I can do with it so far is ride someone else's legilimency attempts, but give me time and I'll be a legitimate legilimens.

“On another note,” she continued, “I've been making some modifications on the inside of the shared brainspace, and I think you'll find that even when we're all asleep – myself included – nothing is going to break through our mind. I've even located the source of the connection with Voldemort. I don't know anything about its nature, but it's based in this hideous scar, and it has tendrils going into our mind. I plan on studying it, to see if I can remove it, and copy the Parseltongue ability from it before I remove it. After all, I don't really see sudden debilitating migraines being a very effective early-warning system, seeing as pain can temporarily cripple people, in a manner of speaking.”

“May I test your defenses without you reaching into my own mind again?”

“Sure. I doubt the same trick would work twice.”

Still wary, Dumbledore lifted his wand. “Legilimens.”

At first, it looked like she'd not put up any defenses at all. Images came into his mind, images that fit what he knew of Hypatia, and even images that fit some of the others. But she remained standing there looking placidly at him as he invaded her mind, which made him suspicious. He kept digging around for a few more minutes, trying to pull up memories of the Dursleys or other powerfully emotional events. This is when he saw the first real sign of something odd, for the memories of the Dursleys were clearly faked. They were good fakes, but seeing as they depicted an ordinary life with Dursleys who were maybe a bit stand-offish but otherwise took good care of Adira when she was Harry, that was sort of a dead giveaway that it was a lie.

He tried probing for the talk of horcruxes he knew he'd had with Alastair last year, but couldn't find any reference to it, nor the word anywhere in her memory. In fact, the only instance of them coming up to his office that he could find at all was the two times they'd been up here in second year.

Trying a different tack, he probed for memories of Luna Lovegood. What he saw in her mind suggested they were friends, maybe a little more innocently physical than with other friends (such as hugs and hand-holding), but nothing to suggest a romantic relationship.

The last thing Dumbledore found before giving up was that there was no sign of Mother at all, either. And Hypatia's own memories did not contain any mention of Draco Malfoy, the incident that had caused her to be discovered, or any mention of ritual magic or anything else that wasn't approved. So he finally broke the connection.

“You used your unique ability to reprogram your own brain, I see, becoming a perfect occlumens in the space of several weeks.”

“Yes. It wasn't difficult. I didn't bother when I was hiding because it would be very suspicious and might have given me away, but now the kneazle is out of the bag, it was a simple matter to construct a false memory and hide our actual thoughts and memories behind it. Of course, the version that is usually there contains no suggestion of my own existence.”

“I do not doubt it. Well, that gives me one less thing to do.”

“Likewise,” she said. “But now I expect you to be completely honest with me. And if I have to become the most powerful legilimens in the world to pry the truth out of you, I will be rather annoyed. And you know what I am capable of when roused.”

“You are still a child, though. Especially when compared to me. Do not forget that no matter what you are capable of, I am capable of far more. So let us dispense with the threats.”

“Are you going to be honest with us?”

“I have always been honest with you.”

She frowned. “Not telling any blatant lies, but still hiding things from people, that is not the same as being honest.”

“I have told you about the horcruxes. I have told you of the prophecy before your birth, about you and Voldemort. What more do you think I'm hiding from you?”

“You know what this is,” she said, pointing at the scar. It wasn't a question.

“I have some theories, yes.”

“Tell me your theories, then.”

“I am sorry, Hypatia, but I cannot do that. I'm far from certain, and you are yet too young.”

“You told us of horcruxes, and the prophecy.”

“Yes, but that's different. This... I do not even like thinking about it myself. To tell it to you would be too great a burden on your young mind. I cannot--”

Symbols suddenly appeared all over Hypatia's body, causing him to stop in his tracks.

One word. One word is all it would take to activate a purposefully-botched ritual magic spell that would kill me instantly. It doesn't even have to be spoken. And there's also a dead-man switch in my head I've set up. Stun me and it goes off. Confund me or Obliviate me and it goes off. You. Will. Tell. Me. Your. Theories, Dumbledore. NOW.”

Dumbledore froze. She had to be bluffing, right? She wouldn't do that to herself, to the others, would she? Far from mere suicide, it would be murder! But he supposed she could if she wanted to. He tried deciphering the symbols--

“Five.”

“Five?” he asked, confused.

“Four, three, two--”

“You are a horcrux!” he blurted out, terrified.

She froze, regarding him with cold, amber eyes. Then she smiled. “Better. Now explain.”

He relaxed a little, shaking, composing himself for a moment before speaking.

“I believe,” he said at last, “that Voldemort made at least three horcruxes. The more horcruxes one makes, the more one destabilizes one's soul. I do not know what Lily did to save your life. I suspect some sort of ritual magic, as there are some rituals that can use the power of a willing sacrifice to save others from lesser curses, and your parents did die on Halloween, the night when the veil between our world and the world of the dead is thinnest, but none of the rituals I know of have ever worked against the Killing Curse.

“Whatever your mother did to save you, it worked. Because he had horcruxes, Voldemort did not die, but became a wraith instead. In the explosion of his curse backfiring on him, I suspect part of his soul broke off by accident and attached itself to the only living thing it could find: you. He was probably preparing to use your death to make his next horcrux, but then his curse backfired on him. Since it is not a proper horcrux, it is not nearly as full of dark magic as they usually are. But it may have been influencing the Dursleys to be more horrible than usual, since they already did not like you. And before you ask, the protections Hogwarts has would likely have protected your friends and loved ones from its influence, if indeed it is influencing people who love you at all. Or perhaps your mind has somehow built mental scar tissue over the thing, I do not know.

“Now please, I have told you all I know, except for my research into Voldemort, which isn't complete and would take days or weeks to relate to you in any case, and I was already planning to tell you that research as soon as you could occlude your mind. So will you please remove those symbols?”

Hypatia was grinning, her eyes watering as she wiped the symbols from her body. “You actually believed me. I bluffed you, and you bought it!” She burst into the tears that were her form of laughter, grinning and leaning against the wall as she did.

It was Dumbledore's turn to grow cold with fury. “What do you mean?”

When she calmed down and finished wiping her eyes, she said, “Like Mother would have let me do any of that! I'm reasonably sure She can read my mind at all times whether I want Her to or not. If I planned to kill myself for real, or to threaten it and mean it, She would have stopped me, shut me down, and shoved me so far down into the Basement that even She would have a hard time finding me. And I would never hurt Chandra, or put myself willingly into a situation where he might get hurt. Also, I'm not a monster. So wow, I honestly did not expect that to work! And here I thought you were intelligent enough to not be fooled by that!”

“It would appear Mr. Malfoy was right,” Dumbledore said, his voice colder than the breeze coming off an Antarctic glacier, “you are indeed a Slytherin. A week's worth of detentions for threatening the life of a student.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Fine by me.”

“You say that now, but just you wait. You will be here, every night. You, not any of the others. And you will not be enjoying the experience either. I will think of something sufficient by tomorrow. In fact, I already have some ideas. Come to my office tomorrow after dinner. You are excused now.”

Hypatia shrugged, and switched back to Iliana with no glow at all. Dumbledore, despite his frayed nerves, noticed they'd been doing that almost every time now. Iliana looked back at Dumbledore as though apologizing to him for Hypatia with her expression, but he just gestured her away impatiently, so she opened the door and left.

“Well I say,” said the snide voice of the portrait of former headmaster Phineas Nigellus, “I've never seen a student more full of herself and carried away with her own cleverness before. You need to find a way to reign her in, Dumbledore.”

“Not now, Phineas. I am weary.”

“Fine. Later, then.”

Dumbledore sighed, deciding to retire early for the night. He needed to relax for a while after that whole fiasco.

~

Hypatia came back the next night after dinner for her first night of her detentions. She was trying not to look too cocky, but it was difficult; Dumbledore was a big softy, she doubted any detention with him would be more than mildly annoying.

Dumbledore had her sit at the chair in front of his desk, where she found she was stuck with a sticking charm. He then had her give him her wands, which he set on the desk out of her reach, and cast Silencio on her. She rolled her eyes at him.

“You will sit there watching me read restricted books about horcruxes, ritual magic, runic casting, and other dark arts, unable to ask questions, knowing I will not be letting you look at or copy the books, all while sitting in uncomfortable silence.”

Her eyes going wide told Dumbledore his punishment was on the nose. Smiling, he sat down and started pretending to read “Secrets of the Darkest Art,” the book about horcruxes. Every now and then, he would say things like “Hmm,” or “Interesting,” or even pull faces at the more gruesome details he could recall from memory, or illustrations he had forgotten about. All the time, he paid enough attention to Hypatia to know she was in a great deal of suffering, her own curiosity and frustration being the worst punishment possible for her. Several times he caught her raking her fingers across her face or pulling her own hair in frustration. She even broke down laughing, though no sound came out of her of course.

Thus, after four hours, by which time she was just staring forlornly at the book he was 'reading,' he finally let her go. Four hours, but to her it had felt like twelve. It didn't get any easier the other six nights of her detention, either. By the end of the fifth night, she was crying and laughing, trying desperately and futilely to get out of the chair or move it, her face ending up a complete mess from the tears. On the sixth night, Dumbledore had to glare warningly at her when she attempted to transform to someone else, which she failed at because nobody was there to transform to. (The others had vanished to the Basement for each of these detentions after the first 15 minutes of the first one.) When Dumbledore let her go that last night, she ran out of the room without even transforming first, only switching with Al just before passing the gargoyle.

Al thought the whole thing was extremely amusing. Though trying to explain to Ron and Hermione where they were every night had been bothersome. He wasn't sure Hermione bought their explanation that their occlumency lessons were every night this week.

~

The start of the summer term would normally have meant that Iliana was training hard for the last Quidditch match of the season. This year, however, it was the third and final task in the Triwizard Tournament for which they needed to prepare, but they still didn’t know what they would have to do. Finally, on May 10th, Professor McGonagall came up to Al at breakfast.

“You are to go down to the Quidditch field tonight at nine o’clock, Potter,” she told him. “Mr. Bagman will be there to tell the champions about the third task.”

So at half past eight that night, Al left Ron and Hermione in Gryffindor Tower and went downstairs. As he crossed the entrance hall, Cedric came up from the Hufflepuff common room.

“What d’you reckon it’s going to be?” he asked Al as they went together down the stone steps, out into the cloudy night. “Fleur keeps going on about a spaceship; reckons we'll have to retrieve the Triwizard Cup from the moon.”

They walked down the dark lawn to the Quidditch stadium, turned through a gap in the stands, and walked out onto the field.

“What’ve they done to it?” Cedric said indignantly, stopping dead.

There was something huge, like a small skyscraper, being built in the middle of the Quidditch pitch. Wizards and witches were floating pieces up into place from the ground while wizards on brooms attached the pieces or cast spells on them. It looked like it was hollow, though, as there weren't any floors but the one holding the whole thing up.

“Bugger if I know,” Al said.

“Hello there!” called a cheery voice.

Ludo Bagman was standing outside the field, well outside of the hard-hat zone with Krum and Fleur. Al and Cedric made their way toward them, climbing over the hedges. Fleur beamed at Al as he came nearer. Her attitude toward them had changed completely since they'd saved her sister from the lake.

“Well, what d'you think?” Bagman asked.

“I have no bloody idea,” Al said.

“Nor I,” said Krum. Fleur and Cedric shrugged.

“Well perhaps it isn't plain yet, but well, we're going to do a maze! The inside will be bigger than the outside, and the outside walls will let the viewers see each of the champions and the section of the maze you're in, while none of you will be able to see out.

“Once inside, you navigate the maze to find the top, where the Triwizard Cup will be waiting for your. First person to touch it gets transported down to the front of the building where the celebration will begin!”

“That's it? Just navigate a maze?” Cedric asked. Al rolled his eyes.

“There will be obstacles,” said Bagman happily, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Hagrid is providing a number of creatures … then there will be spells that must be broken … all that sort of thing, you know. Now, the champion who is leading on points will get a head start into the maze.” Bagman grinned at Krum. “Then Mr. Diggory will enter, then Mr. Potter, then Miss Delacour. But you’ll all be in with a fighting chance, depending how well you get past the obstacles. Should be fun, eh?”

Al, who knew only too well the kind of creatures that Hagrid was likely to provide for an event like this, said, “Oh yeah! As fun as a barrel of blast-ended skrewts.” Cedric snickered.

Looking confused for a moment first, Bagman asked, “Any questions? No? Very well … if you haven’t got any questions, we’ll go back up to the castle, shall we, it’s a bit chilly.”

Bagman hurried alongside Al as they began to walk away from the maze-building in progress. Al had the feeling that Bagman was going to start offering to help him again, but just then, Krum tapped Al on the shoulder.

“Could I haff a vord?”

“Out here in the dark when some evil jerk put our names in the stupid wooden Shotglass of Flaming Shite? No thank you. We can talk when we get inside the castle.”

“Fine. Vill you let me valk vith you?”

“It's no skin off my nose. That means yes,” Al clarified, and the two boys started walking again. “What's up?”

“Vell, I was just vondering if there is anything between Herm-oh-ninny and Ron Veasley.”

Al pulled a face. “I sure hope not. I like Ron, I do, but Hermione is so far out of his league it's not even funny. And even though they're friends, he still treats her a bit shitty at times. Anyway, I haven't noticed anything lately. I mean, I think he might fancy her, but honestly, she's pretty fanciable. None of us have any interest in her that way, we think of her like a sister, but we can see where someone would fancy her. She's intelligent, clever, witty, and she's starting to really win the puberty lottery lately.

“About the only sticking point I can think of between the two of you is that she's like, three years younger than you, and still a minor. But I guess as long as you don't do anything beyond talk or hug or hold hands before she's of age, that's not much of an issue. But if I find you've taken advantage of her, I'll transfigure your mouth to your anus, you hear me?”

Krum, looking scared, nodded. “I understand. I vill not take advantage of her. You have my vord.”

“Good. Now if you're looking for advice--”

Al heard something to the side, and noticed that they'd wandered too close to the Forbidden Forest. Something moved behind Krum in the trees, and Al, who had some experience of the sort of thing that lurked in the forest, instinctively grabbed Krum’s arm and pulled him around, whipping his wand out and directing it at the trees.

“Vot is it?”

Al shook his head, staring at the place where he’d seen movement.

Suddenly a man staggered out from behind a tall oak. Al had never seen the man before, whoever he was. He looked as though he had been traveling for days. The knees of his robes were ripped and bloody, his face scratched; he was unshaven and gray with exhaustion. His hair and mustache were both in need of a wash and a trim. His strange appearance, however, was nothing to the way he was behaving. Muttering and gesticulating, the man appeared to be talking to someone that he alone could see. He reminded Al vividly of an old tramp he had seen once when out shopping with the Dursleys. That man too had been conversing wildly with thin air; Aunt Petunia had seized Dudley’s hand and pulled him across the road to avoid him; Uncle Vernon had then treated the family to a long rant about what he would like to do with beggars and vagrants.

“Who is he?” Krum asked, backing up, his own wand out.

“No idea. Never seen him before. But he doesn't have his wand out.”

“Yet,” Krum added.

“Yes, that's a good point. What should we do?”

Al paused and shushed Krum, because he could hear the man talking to a tree.

“...and when you’ve done that, Jacobs, send an owl to Dumbledore confirming the number of Durmstrang students who will be attending the tournament, Karkaroff has just sent word there will be twelve.”

“Wait a minute,” Al said, things locking into place in his head. “Mr. Crouch?”

“Who is Mr. Crouch?”

“If it's him, Mr. Crouch is the former head of our Department of International Magical Cooperation.”

“… and then send another owl to Madame Maxime, because she might want to up the number of students she’s bringing, now Karkaroff’s made it a round dozen … do that, Jacobs, will you? Will you? Will …”

Mr. Crouch’s eyes were bulging. He stood staring at the tree, muttering soundlessly at it. Then he staggered sideways and fell to his knees.

“Mr. Crouch?” Al said loudly. “Are you all right?”

Crouch’s eyes were rolling in his head. Al looked around at Krum, who had followed him to the edge of the trees, and was looking down at Crouch in alarm.

“Vot is wrong with him?”

“No idea,” Al muttered. “But I'm gonna try to get Dumbledore down here. Expecto Patronum!”

The three-headed Runespoor snake patronus formed, waiting for instructions.

“Go tell Dumbledore to come to the Forbidden Forest,” he told it. “Tell him Mr. Crouch is here, and he's gone crazy, his movements jerky and talking to trees like they're people he knows. Go!”

The Runespoor patronus flew off toward the castle.

“In the meantime, Expelliarmus!”

The spell did nothing to Mr. Crouch except thwart his attempt to right himself by pushing him back against the ground.

“Dumbledore!” gasped Mr. Crouch. He got up again and reached out to try to grab Al's robes, but Al leaped back even further. “I need … see … Dumbledore.”

“Yeah, I just sent him a message, he should-- hey, speak of the devil.”

It was not the devil, nor Dumbledore, but a phoenix patronus.

“Wait there,” it said in Dumbledore's voice. “Do not move. Have your wand out. Be vigilant, and I will be there soon.”

As it faded, he turned his attention back to Mr. Crouch.

“I’ve done … stupid … thing …” Mr. Crouch breathed. He looked utterly mad. His eyes were rolling and bulging, and a trickle of spittle was sliding down his chin. Every word he spoke seemed to cost him a terrible effort. “Must … tell … Dumbledore …”

“Yeah yeah, he'll be here in a few minutes. Don't worry.”

“Who … you?” he whispered.

“I’m a student at the school,” Al said.

“You’re not … his?” whispered Crouch, his mouth sagging.

“Who's?”

“Dumbledore’s?”

“Well I've summoned Dumbledore, if that's what you mean. And he's my headmaster, so yes, I suppose I am his.”

Crouch crawled closer to Al and Krum. Krum stepped back, but Al didn't, this time.

“Warn … Dumbledore …”

“Warn him of what?”

“Thank you, Jacobs, and when you have done that, I would like a cup of tea. My wife and son will be arriving shortly, we are attending a concert tonight with Mr. and Mrs. Fudge.”

Crouch was now talking fluently to a tree again, and seemed completely unaware that Al was there.

“Yes, my son has recently gained twelve O.W.L.s, most satisfactory, yes, thank you, yes, very proud indeed. Now, if you could bring me that memo from the Andorran Minister of Magic, I think I will have time to draft a response.”

“Nuttier than a collision between a fruitcake schooner and a nut barge,” Al said, shaking his head.

“He is quite mad, yes,” Krum said, sounding scared. “I hope he does not attack us.”

Al started to walk back a few steps from Crouch, but the man came at him so fast he had Al's robes in his hands before Al could react.

“Don’t … leave … me!” he whispered, his eyes bulging again. “I … escaped … must warn … must tell … see Dumbledore … my fault … all my fault … Bertha … dead … all my fault … my son … my fault … tell Dumbledore … Harry Potter … the Dark Lord … stronger … Harry Potter …”

“Get. OFF. Me!” Al said, hitting the man's hands with a Stinging Hex. The man yowled and let go.

There was a sudden loud sound behind them, and they both turned around to look, but nothing was there. Then red light hit them from behind and they blacked out.

~

When Al's eyes opened up, he saw Dumbledore looking down at him with concern.

“Are you alright, Alastair?”

“Peachy,” Al said, rubbing his head and looking around. “How's Krum?”

“I am avake,” the slavic boy answered.

“Alastair, Viktor, do either of you know where Mr. Crouch is?”

Al looked around in a panic. “He's gone!? Dammit! Whoever hexed us from behind when that noise distracted us must've got him and dragged him off somewhere. How long did it take you to get down here?”

“Though I came as quickly as I could, I was in the bathtub when I got your message. So it has been about ten minutes.”

“Damn.”

“What did Mr. Crouch say, Al?”

“He wasn't acting normally. He didn't seem to know where he was. He kept talking like someone named Jacobs was there. Possibly a secretary or assistant? Then his whole aspect would change and he'd seem like he was saner, but struggling to get a message out.”

“Did anyone besides the two of you see him?”

“Well presumably the berk who stunned us saw him, unless that was Crouch, but other than that, no idea. I don't think so.”

“What happened? How did this begin?”

“Krum and I were talking, Mr. Bagman had just finished telling us about the third task, we stayed behind, and then we saw Mr. Crouch coming out of the forest. I summoned you with my patronus, then someone sneaked behind us and stunned us with a non-verbal spell.”

“Where was he standing?”

“He vas over there,” Krum said, pointing. “Then he fell down. Alastair tried to disarm him in case he vas armed, but it just pushed him into the ground.”

The sound of thunderous footfalls reached them, and Hagrid came panting into sight with Fang at his heels. Dumbledore must have summoned Hagrid while they were out. Hagrid was carrying his crossbow.

“Professor Dumbledore!” he said, his eyes widening. “Al! What the--”

“Hagrid, I need you to fetch Professor Karkaroff,” said Dumbledore. “His student has been attacked. When you’ve done that, kindly alert Professor Moody —”

“No need, Dumbledore,” said a wheezy growl. “I’m here.”

Moody was limping toward them, leaning on his staff, his wand lit.

“Damn leg,” he said furiously. “Would’ve been here quicker. Happened to be walking in front of a window and saw the two boys out cold in the grass with my eye.”

“Did you see the culprit? Or Mr. Crouch?”

“Crouch was here? Anyway no, I didn't see anyone else. I started heading downstairs at once, but I guess you beat me here.”

“Crouch?” said Hagrid blankly.

“Karkaroff, please, Hagrid!” said Dumbledore sharply.

“Oh yeah … right y’are, Professor …” said Hagrid, and he turned and disappeared into the dark trees, Fang trotting after him.

“I don’t know where Barty Crouch is,” Dumbledore told Moody, “but it is essential that we find him.”

“I’m onto it,” growled Moody, and he pulled out his wand and limped off into the forest.

Neither Dumbledore nor Al spoke again until they heard the unmistakable sounds of Hagrid and Fang returning. Karkaroff was hurrying along behind them. He was wearing his sleek silver furs, and he looked pale and agitated.

“What is this?” he cried when he saw Krum on the ground and Dumbledore and Al beside him. “What’s going on?”

“I vos attacked!” said Krum, sitting up now and rubbing his head. “Mr. Crouch or votever his name —”

“Crouch attacked you? Crouch attacked you? The former director of the Department of International Magical Cooperation?”

“Igor,” Dumbledore began, but Karkaroff had drawn himself up, clutching his furs around him, looking livid.

“Treachery!” he bellowed, pointing at Dumbledore. “It is a plot! You and your Ministry of Magic have lured me here under false pretenses, Dumbledore! This is not an equal competition! First you sneak Potter into the tournament, though he is underage! Now one of your Ministry friends attempts to put my champion out of action! I smell double-dealing and corruption in this whole affair, and you, Dumbledore, you, with your talk of closer international wizarding links, of rebuilding old ties, of forgetting old differences — here’s what I think of you!”

Karkaroff spat onto the ground at Dumbledore’s feet. In one swift movement, Hagrid seized the front of Karkaroff’s furs, lifted him into the air, and slammed him against a nearby tree.

“Apologize!” Hagrid snarled as Karkaroff gasped for breath, Hagrid’s massive fist at his throat, his feet dangling in midair.

“Hagrid, no!” Dumbledore shouted, his eyes flashing.

Hagrid removed the hand pinning Karkaroff to the tree, and Karkaroff slid all the way down the trunk and slumped in a huddle at its roots; a few twigs and leaves showered down upon his head.

“We don't know it was Crouch. We were distracted by another noise and got stunned non-verbally. When we woke up, Crouch was gone and Dumbledore was here.”

“Kindly escort Alastair back up to the castle, Hagrid,” said Dumbledore sharply.

Breathing heavily, Hagrid gave Karkaroff a glowering look.

“Maybe I’d better stay here, Headmaster. …”

“You will take Alastair back to school, Hagrid,” Dumbledore repeated firmly. “Take him right up to Gryffindor Tower. And Alastair — I want you to stay there. You may speak with Sirius on your two-way mirror, but do not leave the Griffindor dorms unless it is an emergency. Do you understand?”

“You don't have to tell me twice, sir.”

“I’ll leave Fang with yeh, Headmaster,” Hagrid said, staring menacingly at Karkaroff, who was still sprawled at the foot of the tree, tangled in furs and tree roots. “Stay, Fang. C’mon, Al.”

They marched in silence past the Beauxbatons carriage and up toward the castle.

“How dare he,” Hagrid growled as they strode past the lake. “How dare he accuse Dumbledore. Like Dumbledore’d do anythin’ like that. Like Dumbledore wanted you in the tournament in the firs’ place. Worried! I dunno when I seen Dumbledore more worried than he’s bin lately. An’ you!” Hagrid suddenly said angrily to Al, who looked up at him, taken aback. “What were yeh doin’, wanderin’ off with ruddy Krum? He’s from Durmstrang, Al! Coulda jinxed yeh right there, couldn’ he? Hasn’ Moody taught yeh nothin’? ’Magine lettin’ him lure yeh off on yer own —”

“He's a good person! I can tell, in most cases, and he's an open book to me. He wasn't trying to hurt us, he was asking about Ron and Hermione.”

“I’ll be havin’ a few words with her, an’ all,” said Hagrid grimly, stomping up the stairs. “The less you lot ’ave ter do with these foreigners, the happier yeh’ll be. Yeh can’ trust any of ’em.”

“You're just sore Maxime broke up with you after you outed her heritage. Honestly, Hagrid, anyone could have heard you, and they did! Ron apparently overheard you as well, not just that horrible Skeeter person. Did you honestly expect Madame Maxime would be okay with you shouting about it like that?”

“Don’ you talk ter me abou’ her!” said Hagrid, and he looked quite frightening for a moment. “She only wanted me help findin' out what the tasks were! Now she's tryin’ ter get back in me good books, tryin’ ter get me ter tell her what’s comin’ in the third task. Ha! You can’ trust any of ’em!”

Al noticed Hagrid had ignored his comment. Al said nothing; Hagrid was in a fouler temper than he'd ever seen before, and he was quite glad to be out of his company when they got to the Fat Lady's portrait. He clambered through the portrait hole into the common room and hurried straight upstairs to get his two-way mirror, then straight for the corner where Ron and Hermione were sitting, to tell them what had happened.

~

Al, Ron, Hermione, and Sirius had been up all night talking about Crouch. Even with seeking input from the other members of the Potter collective, nobody knew a thing because none of them had noticed anything Al hadn't already. Sirius had a fair bit of information for them from months of looking into old newspapers and reading books about the end of the last war, but in the end it didn't help them much. The only really possibly useful tidbit was that Sirius had known Bertha Jorkins at school, and he said she'd had a great memory for gossip, contradicting other people's assessment of her as being forgetful.

They didn't know what Crouch had been trying to warn Dumbledore about other than Voldemort getting stronger, which Dumbledore already knew, and they couldn't figure out who had stunned him and Krum, nor why the mysterious person would stun them and scarper with Crouch. What was worse, they didn't know how he'd escaped. And by the time they thought to check the Marauder's Map, there was nobody left in the Forbidden Forest or surrounding area. Not even Moody had had any better luck, when they asked him about it in the morning, and by the look of his face, he'd been up all night looking for Crouch.

“What I don't get,” Al said as they left Moody behind, “is why Krum and I only got stunned. Whoever scarpered with Crouch could've killed us and still done a runner, he caught us by surprise after all. Even if he killed us after stunning us!”

“Obviously whoever it is, Al, is the person who put your name in the Goblet of Fire, so they wanted it to look like an accident,” Hermione said, “And they can hardly make it look like an accident if they murder you in the Forbidden Forest!”

“But why? If they're willing to make off with Crouch, presumably killing him, why not me as well?”

“Maybe he was afraid Moody would see him?” Ron suggested.

“In that case, why risk attacking Crouch at all? No, something is rotten in the school of Hogwarts. I'm missing something important. Damn! I really need to get a tarot deck!”

Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Hermione, I am a legitimate Seer, even if I've only managed one vision, and Chandra says I should try other divination methods. Tarot sounds the easiest to me, from the books the library has on the subject. But I still need a tarot deck.”

“Al, I don’t understand it either,” said Hermione desperately. “I just know there are a lot of odd things going on, and I don’t like it, but I doubt casting bones or reading tea leaves is going to help. … Moody’s right — Sirius is right — you’ve got to get in training for the third task, straight away. And you make sure you write back to Sirius and promise him you’re not going to go sneaking off alone again.”

“I can do both,” Al said in a snit.

~

The Hogwarts grounds never looked more inviting than when Adira and the others had to stay indoors. For the next few days they spent all of their free time either in the library with Hermione and Ron looking up hexes, or else in the Room of Requirement, which they were using for spell practice.

It had now been a week since Crouch's strange appearance and disappearance on the grounds, and they were just finishing off practicing useful spells before Adira had Divination.

“See you at dinner!” said Hermione after the bell rang, and she set off for Arithmancy, while Adira and Ron headed toward North Tower, and Divination. Broad strips of dazzling gold sunlight fell across the corridor from the high windows. The sky outside was so brightly blue it looked as though it had been enameled.

“It’s going to be boiling in Trelawney’s room, she never puts out that fire,” said Ron as they started up the staircase toward the silver ladder and the trapdoor.

He was quite right. The dimly lit room was swelteringly hot. The fumes from the perfumed fire were heavier than ever. Adira's head swam as she made her way over to one of the curtained windows. While Professor Trelawney was looking the other way, disentangling her shawl from a lamp, Adira opened the window an inch or so and settled back in his chintz armchair, so that a soft breeze played across her face. It was extremely comfortable.

The teacher was droning on about something, Addy wasn't paying attention anymore since the woman was pants at teaching anything useful. She dimmed the lights for some reason, and Adira let the heavily perfumed fumes washed over her, and the breeze from the window played across her face. She could hear an insect humming gently somewhere behind the curtain. Her eyelids began to droop.

She was riding on the back of an eagle owl, soaring through the clear blue sky toward an old, ivy-covered house set high on a hillside. Lower and lower they flew, the wind blowing pleasantly in her face, until they reached a dark and broken window in the upper story of the house and entered. Now they were flying along a gloomy passageway, to a room at the very end … through the door they went, into a dark room whose windows were boarded up.

Addy had left the owl’s back … she was watching, now, as it fluttered across the room, into a chair with its back to him. … There were two dark shapes on the floor beside the chair … both of them were stirring. …

One was a huge snake … the other was a woman … Addy couldn't see the woman well enough to recognize her or not … she was down on the hearth rug, her breathing heavy, her attitude like she'd just had an orgasm even though she was still clothed.

“You are in luck, my dear,” said a cold, high-pitched voice from the depths of the chair in which the owl had landed. “You are very fortunate indeed. Your blunder has not ruined everything. He is dead.”

“My Lord!” purred the woman on the floor. It sounded erotic, nearly obscene. “My Lord, I am … I am so pleased … and so sorry to have displeased you.”

“Nagini,” said the cold voice, “you are out of luck. I will not be feeding anyone to you, after all … but never mind, never mind … there is still the Potter freak.”

The snake hissed. Adira could see its tongue fluttering.

“Now, my dear,” said the cold voice, “that is enough for one day, I think.”

“My Lord … no … I beg you … Please, do it again! I need to be punished!”

The cold voice sighed, then chuckled. “Well you are quite the odd one, aren't you? But then I knew that when I recruited you. Fine, then, but just the one last time. I do not want to cause you any permanent damage.”

The tip of a wand emerged from around the back of the chair. It was pointing at the woman.

Crucio!” said the cold voice.

The woman screamed, screamed as though every nerve in her body were on fire, the screaming filled Adira's ears as the scar on her forehead seared with pain; Addy was yelling too. … Voldemort would hear her, would know she was there.

“Adira! Addy, wake up!”

She opened her eyes. She was lying on the floor of Professor Trelawney’s room with her hands over her face. Her scar was still burning so badly that her eyes were watering. The pain had been real. The whole class was standing around him, and Ron was kneeling next to him, looking terrified.

“You all right?” he said.

“Of course she isn’t!” said Professor Trelawney, looking thoroughly excited. Her great eyes loomed over Adira, gazing at her. “What was it, Potter? A premonition? An apparition? What did you see?”

“Nothing,” she said. “Just a nightmare. I fell asleep in class. I have nightmares quite often.”

“You were clutching your scar!” said Professor Trelawney. “You were rolling on the floor, clutching your scar! Come now, Potter, I have experience in these matters!”

Adira felt Al's anger surge. “You have about as much experience with fortune telling as I have with performing brain surgery! I had a headache and a nightmare at the same time; it's a coincidence, nothing more. I just need to get a headache cure from the hospital wing.”

“My dear, you were undoubtedly stimulated by the extraordinary clairvoyant vibrations of my room!” said Professor Trelawney “If you leave now, you may lose the opportunity to see further than you have ever--”

But their patience with her had evaporated, and Addy rushed out of the room at top speed without another word until she got to the hospital wing. But when she got to the bottom of the ladder, she didn't go to the hospital wing. Aside from the fact the headache was already fading, she knew what she had to do when her scar was hurting. Checking first to make sure she had her two-way mirror in the pouch around her neck, she went instead to Dumbledore's office, trying to remember the details of the dream as she did.

She had walked right past the stone gargoyle guarding the entrance to Dumbledore’s office without noticing. She blinked, looked around, realized what she had done, and retraced her steps, stopping in front of it. Then she remembered that she didn’t know the password.

“Tell Dumbledore I'm here, will you? It's urgent.”

The gargoyle wasn't feeling cooperative today, and raised an eyebrow at her.

“You're gonna be that way, then, are you? Fine. Sherbet lemon?” she tried tentatively.

The gargoyle did not move.

“Okay,” said Addy, staring at it, “Pear Drop. Er — Licorice Wand. Fizzing Whizbee. Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans … oh no, he doesn’t like them, does he? … oh just open, can’t you?” she said angrily. “I really need to see him, it’s urgent!”

The gargoyle remained immovable.

She kicked it, achieving nothing but an excruciating pain in her big toe.

“Chocolate Frog!” she yelled angrily, standing on one leg. “Sugar Quill! Cockroach Cluster!”

The gargoyle sprang to life and jumped aside. Addy blinked in surprise.

“What the--? Gods, whatever.” She sighed, and went in. Just before she got on the stairs, though, she turned to face the gargoyle's back and said, “you know, to be honest, it's kind of stupid that I can just guess passwords at random until I get the right one. Do you know, some Muggle computers will cheerfully ignore even the correct password if someone has to guess more than a few times?”

There was no response, so she huffed and got on the spiral stone staircase, which moved slowly upward until she got to the polished oak door with a brass door knocker.

She could hear voices from inside the office. She stepped off the moving staircase and hesitated, listening.

“Dumbledore, I’m afraid I don’t see the connection, don’t see it at all!” It was the voice of the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. “Ludo says Bertha’s perfectly capable of getting herself lost. I agree we would have expected to have found her by now, but all the same, we’ve no evidence of foul play, Dumbledore, none at all. As for her disappearance being linked with Barty Crouch’s!”

“And what do you thinks happened to Barty Crouch, Minister?” said Moody’s growling voice.

“I see two possibilities, Alastor,” said Fudge. “Either Crouch has finally cracked — more than likely, I’m sure you’ll agree, given his personal history — lost his mind, and gone wandering off somewhere —”

“He wandered extremely quickly, if that is the case, Cornelius,” said Dumbledore calmly.

“Or else — well …” Fudge sounded embarrassed. “Well, I’ll reserve judgment until after I’ve seen the place where he was found, but you say it was just past the Beauxbatons carriage? Dumbledore, you know what that woman is?”

“I consider her to be a very able headmistress — and an excellent dancer,” said Dumbledore quietly.

“Dumbledore, come!” said Fudge angrily. “Don’t you think you might be prejudiced in her favor because of Hagrid? They don’t all turn out harmless — if, indeed, you can call Hagrid harmless, with that monster fixation he’s got —”

“I no more suspect Madame Maxime than Hagrid,” said Dumbledore, just as calmly. “I think it possible that it is you who are prejudiced, Cornelius.”

“Can we wrap up this discussion?” growled Moody.

“Yes, yes, let’s go down to the grounds, then,” said Fudge impatiently.

“No, it’s not that,” said Moody, “it’s just that Potter wants a word with you, Dumbledore. She’s just outside the door.”

Endnotes: Both Hypatia's fake threat and Skeeter telling the world about the neglect by the Dursleys was a bit of a surprise to me, and I had to think about whether or not I wanted to keep it, hence the wait. Obviously I decided to keep it.

Bah, I just noticed I had a scene in a previous chapter that referenced the Dark Mark going up in the sky, but that didn't happen in this fic. Instead, there was a fight with the Death Eaters. I'll fix it later.

And yes, Dumbledore's comment about time turners not going back that far is correct in this 'verse. It's also my headcanon to the original story, because I hate “Cursed Child.” It was a horrible story that made no sense at all and should not be considered canon.

From a comment I sent someone, that I thought others would get a kick out of: I actually had to rewrite [chapter 38] because I let Molly loose on it and her original version involved Zoey using Hypatia's knowledge to do the following:

1. Put wards on Luna's stuff that turned into a communicable magical illness that infected the entire school and forced the school into quarantine, which was the original excuse for her finding the Room of Lost Things. (Specifically, the magical illness was tied to an anchor stone, she couldn't figure out how to destroy it, and she didn't want to get caught and expelled, so she hid the anchor stone in the Room of Lost Things.)

2. Used a ritual to pin Peeves in place, which led him to finally go apeshit on the school when he got out.

3. Password locked Snape's office and the Slytherin dorm entrance, and ended up somehow managing to get Draco blamed for it.

Quite aside from that being Way Too Much, the way Zoey got Hypatia's powers was via Mother, which was WAY out of character for Mother to do. So that's the kind of thing you get when a seven year old who can write like an adult goes wild on a chapter, luckily I reigned her in.



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