The Sugar Quill
Author: K. A. Flower  Story: Into the Terrible Night  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Summary: Later in the evening of June 24th 1995, Albus Dumbledore relives the fated night of the Tri-Wizard tournament, all the while pondering the choices of Severus Snape and the future of Hogwarts and the Wizarding world as he knows it.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author’s Note: Special thanks goes out to Teri Krenek, my good friend online who took time out of her busy schedule of writing TAA to beta-read this fic as well as allow me to delve into the world of Mirrors Anywho, another heartfelt thanks to Britney for helping me with the second beta and characterizations -- JKR, eat your heart out! Har har...Just kidding.

***

Albus Dumbledore sat silently behind his desk, watching as the bright orange light of the flames licked against the grate. It was quiet, except for the slow, monotonous tick of the clock by the mantel and occasional deep-hearted sigh from within Fawkes. The twilight danced through the windows of the circular room and cast shadows upon the portraits of former Headmasters and Headmistresses lining the walls. Albus would have found this very relaxing, if it hadn’t been for the outcome of the Triwizard Tournament.

Something had told him earlier that evening that the task was tainted. Part of it was when Moody – no, Barty Crouch Jr. -- volunteered to take the cup into the maze. Another was the advanced warning from Harry. Only this week, Harry had come to Dumbledore complaining of the pains in his scar and the dream he had had. And now, the cruelest Dark Lord of the Wizarding age had risen again.

The situation Albus found himself in was very difficult. He knew the precautions that would need to be addressed immediately. Voldemort would wait, he found himself thinking, there isn’t any immediate danger…yet. Eventually, his thoughts got the better of him and Albus rose from his seat. Fawkes glanced at him with patient eyes. I know how you feel, Albus. He smiled slightly, his half-moon spectacles glinting from the fire. A faint glow entered his vision as he paced slowly in front of the fire. The cabinet nearest to his desk was cracked open slightly, and a bright light was emanating from within. Without another thought, Albus walked over, pushed the door open further, and stared into the murky depths, watching as the smooth surface sparkled innocently up at him. He nimbly bent down and stroked the fine mist and a scene began to unfold before him. Another swift movement, and Albus was pulled into the Pensieve.

“Albus, you need not worry. I’ll take the cup into the maze before dinner and see to it the wards are in place,” Moody growled, hefting the cup into the crook of his left arm and limping out of Albus’ office. The old Headmaster watched silently, a small smile forming on his lips. “Alastor, one more thing.”

The waning Auror turned around easily and formed a lopsided grin. “Yes?”

Albus sighed, tapping his wand idly against the desk. “See to it that Harry is safe, won’t you? Do not interfere by any means…Just put your eye to good use tonight.”

“Will do, Albus. Will do,” Moody muttered absently, a strange sparkle in his eyes. A brief silence passed between them before Moody hobbled out of the office. Fawkes’ gaze never left the door however – his feathers were ruffled in a gesture of provocation. Something wasn’t right.

“Fawkes, I do think you should relax,” Albus said quietly, concern evident in his tone. He just burned recently, Albus thought while leaving his desk. The plumage on the bird was still ruffled, even as Albus gently stroked Fawkes into sleep. Eventually, the door to his office burst open, and a darkly robed figure strolled into the room. “Headmaster, I have something that requires the utmost importance.”

“Severus, do sit down.” Albus motioned for Severus to sit in one of the finely-patterned armchairs in front of his desk, yet before he could reach his own chair –

“It’s back. The mark. Clearer than I have ever seen it,” Severus looked as if he would have been panicked had it not been for the heavy scowl on his face. “Karkaroff’s is stronger also.”

Albus stared at Severus with piercing blue eyes, random thoughts passing through his mind. Harry’s scar – the mark – and where is that Barty Crouch? Severus at last sat in the armchair, hand clutching his left forearm as though it were on fire. “What do you think it means, Headmaster? Surely, the Dark Lord wouldn’t…not tonight….”

“As for what Voldemort would do, if anything, I cannot say. However, I find it awfully hard to put anything past him.”

Severus’ scowl deepened, and he folded his arms across his chest. “I still believe that Potter should not compete tonight.”

I don’t want him to, however I have no choice, Albus reflected, steepling his fingers together. “Severus, if I had thought anything dangerous would happen tonight, you can trust that I would stop it. However, for the time being, I think we should put our efforts towards getting him through the task. Then we’ll worry.”

Severus’ eyes narrowed, and although Albus never would have thought it possible, his scowl deepened. “Of course, Headmaster.” He then stood abruptly from his seat and without hesitation left Albus’ office. Albus knew how much Severus hated Harry – it was evident even at meal times. However, Severus still felt a need to protect Harry – albeit indirectly – in hopes to obtain some type of redemption both from James and his past. Both which now seemed to be closer than ever in Albus’ mind.

Yet Albus couldn’t dwell on it at the moment. The clock struck six o’clock, while the hand on another clock on his desk pointed to both ‘late’ and ‘dinner’. Bustling a bit, Albus grabbed his gold pocket watch and set off, after lightly petting Fawke’s forlorn head, towards the Great Hall, doubt evident in his mind.

***

Eight o’clock. The maze’s blackness seemed to engulf the surroundings. It had been precisely forty-five minutes since Harry and Cedric had entered the maze. Of course, the excitement in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Hagrid came around the corner of the maze, his bright red patch glowing on his back. He looked as nervous as Albus felt – but he also looked into the maze with a type of reverence that Albus almost didn’t expect. He relaxed in his seat, catching Hagrid’s eye and smiling faintly in the process. Hagrid sent a nervous smile back, clutching his pink umbrella in a tight fist. Any moment now, Albus relished with some anticipation. The judges as well as the spectators could see the plinth on which the cup stood. Albus’ eyes roved over the stands – Cho Chang, sitting with the Diggorys. Molly and her son Bill sitting with Hermione and Ron, who, although pale-faced and wide-eyed, surveyed the scene with eagerness.

However, something caught Dumbledore’s eye – a piercing scream raked through the air and sent the hair on Albus’ arms standing straight. Suddenly, bright red sparks lit up the sky above the easternmost portion of the maze – the side nearest to the spectators. Alastor is there by now, Albus contemplated, gripping his wand and standing from his seat. Madam Maxime stood, a hand over her mouth and a shocked expression on her face. Fleur had been the one injured.

Albus breathed a small sigh of relief, grateful that Harry, Cedric and Viktor were all right. However he disembarked from the judge’s table and took long strides towards the maze, Cornelius Fudge and Karkaroff trailing behind him.

“Albus! Over here!” Alastor shouted. The sounds of the spectators became quite loud as they pointed towards a spot in the shadows. Alastor tapped his wand against the maze and an archway appeared. He trudged into the maze and then struggled back out, pulling along with him a shaking Fleur Delacour. She was pale and trembling violently. An aggravated Alastor pulled off his cloak and draped it across her shoulders. “It’s alright there, Miss Delacour,” Albus said quietly as he approached her and gently took her arm. “You are safe now.”

He guided her over towards Madam Pomfrey, who looked aghast at Fleur. “Poppy, please take care of her. I would like to speak to her about what happened in there in a moment.” She nodded her head absently and led Fleur to a tent that had been constructed near the Judge’s table. Madame Maxime was already waiting impatiently, and Albus watched her pat Fleur consolingly on the shoulder.

“Alastor, did you see what happened?” Cornelius Fudge watched nervously as Alastor’s magical eye fixed on him. “I mean, did you notice anything strange?”

“Yeah, I saw what happened, Minister,” Alastor growled, turning again towards the maze. “One of Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts snuck up on her.”

Cornelius nodded dumbly, clutching his bowler hat in his hands while murmuring, “One down, three to go.”

Secretly, Albus agreed. However, now his attention turned towards the tent. Although Alastor had told Dumbledore what happened, he still couldn’t help but feel that there was something more. Something about the way that Fleur looked…pale, trembling –he had a suspicion that something was in the maze that shouldn’t be.

“Headmaster, Poppy is calling for you,” Severus said suddenly, his face set in a frown. His eyes were glittering strangely as he watched Alastor make his way around the maze. Poppy called to him over the excited murmuring of the crowd and Albus felt obliged to answer. The light from the tent cast shadows on the ground behind him, yet Albus didn’t care to notice. Fleur was sitting up on a bed, still trembling and white, yet her gaze was slightly unfocused now and she seemed to be attempting to mumble something.

“Albus, she wasn’t ‘attacked’ by an animal,” Poppy said in hushed tones. Albus seemed to suddenly realize that Madame Maxime was still standing near Fleur, a look of consternation on her large and usually dignified face. “By all appearances, she was cursed.”

Albus started at her words. Cursed? But there aren’t any curses in the maze that would have such an effect…. “I know what you are thinking…and frankly, I don’t think that I am wrong.”

He approached Fleur slowly, taking in Poppy’s words. She certainly did look as though she had been involved in a battle. “Miss Delacour, Madame Pomfrey here says –“

“Albus! More sparks!”

Cornelius bustled into the tent looking quite tense and anxious. “This time, it was on McGonagall’s side.” Albus looked soberly at Fleur before leaving the tent to a scene of chaos.

Red sparks still hung in the sky over the maze, however, a troop of six teachers was carrying something towards the tent – a stunned Viktor Krum. Poppy came and stood beside him, a spasm of terror crossing her face. “Please do not tell me that you stunned him!”

Minerva, although appearing flustered, had a look of heightened anxiety in her eyes. “No, of course not, Poppy! I found him like this – I think Potter or Diggory might’ve stunned him.”

Bagman shook his head. “Certainly not Potter!” He gave a choked sort of laugh and the color drained slowly from his face. “He wouldn’t be removed from the tournament for such a thing, right?”

Cornelius frowned. “I wouldn’t put it past Potter to do such a thing, and if it was him to stun Krum, then yes –“

However, Cornelius’ words were drowned in his throat. The crowd had begun to yell and the excitement in the air reached a pivotal point. Poppy took charge over Viktor while the Judges headed back to their table, missing Karkaroff who had silently followed after Poppy. The plinth was glowing strangely in the center of the maze, meaning only one thing – someone was near the cup. Yet a large black ball was running around the cup, and Albus’ breath caught in his throat. I hope they’re all right. Finally, the large black ball stopped and toppled into a hedge. A few minutes passed – the air buzzed with excitement – and then two small figures stood before the cup. Cedric Diggory was supporting Harry. And with one final glance at one another, they both seized the cup – and disappeared.

***

A half hour had passed since the cup had vanished, taking away Harry and Cedric, and Albus was still confounded. The crowd was on their feet, and Dumbledore noticed the panicked expressions on the faces of the Diggorys, Molly, Bill, Hermione, Cho and Ron. However much he wanted to assure them everything was all right, he still couldn’t shake the feeling that everything wasn’t, and would never again be, all right.

“I just don’t understand, Albus! The cup was supposed to float them over to the platform!” Minerva said hysterically. She was pale and was flailing her arms around, waving her wand threateningly. But Severus shook Dumbledore out of his reverie.

“Headmaster,” Severus whispered, and it sounded more out of desperation – and the look on Severus’ face…was it fear? “Something has gone terribly wrong.”

He was clutching his left forearm, and he had gone terribly white. He also shuddered a bit as he clenched his teeth in a grimace. Albus’ heart sank. “Severus, please…tell me it isn’t…”

But Severus didn’t answer. Instead, he sat heavily in a chair and shut his eyes, trying to regulate his breathing. Coldness settled over him, and Minerva watched, slightly panicked. “This can’t be happening.”

Albus sat down, his chin resting against his hand, trying to contemplate the situation. Now that he thought about it, it all made sense. Getting together all of the top Ministry members in one place, as well as Harry, and myself –. But there was something else. Someone amongst them had to be a traitor. Someone betrayed them…again. Albus began to drift off into his thoughts, thinking about who it could be. Severus had already demonstrated his capabilities to deceive and manipulate, however Albus knew that Severus wouldn’t lie to him. Cornelius and Bagman were far too blustering to be able to pull off something such as this. Karkaroff – was a possibility. Perhaps he chose to take out Viktor so he wouldn’t be injured. Sirius Black was no more capable of doing this than Professor Sprout. He loved Harry too deeply. Alastor – would be damned if he did something like this. Stooping to the level of someone practicing the dark arts – the very same thing he has fought against for his entire career.

The noise in the stands rose annoyingly – he had to say something. The time had grown into an hour since Cedric and Harry had last been seen, and now everyone was filled with a sense of worry. He strode over to the winner’s platform, pointed his wand at his throat, and began to speak.

“Quiet please! Quiet, everyone! We are now sorting through the situation, and if you would all please calm down –“

A bright flash disturbed Albus’ words, and he stopped abruptly. Three objects thumped to the ground behind him, and Albus didn’t need to turn around to know what it was because the crowd began shouting. He jumped nimbly off the platform and began to run towards the bleary entrance of the maze, where Harry lay on his stomach, the cup and his wand clutched in one had and Cedric Diggory in the other. The difference was, however, that Harry was breathing shallowly while Cedric's face was frozen in a permanent expression of shock, gazing up at the heavens. Cedric was dead.

Albus paused briefly, mostly of pure shock, before resuming his stride and stopping before Harry. His face was cut very badly and bleeding – his hair was even more mangled and his glasses sat askance on his nose. His face was ghastly pale and streaked with tears. But his expression was resolute and the wand was clamped in his fingers as though he was dueling…

“Harry! Harry!” Albus murmured, shaking Harry gently.

“He’s back,” Harry whispered, his eyes fluttering open slightly. “He’s back. Voldemort.”

“What’s going on? What’s happened?” Cornelius had appeared beside him, staring down at Cedric.

“My God – Diggory!” He whispered. “Dumbledore -- He’s dead!” Harry stirred, clasping Albus’ wrist. “Harry, let go of him,” Cornelius said blankly as he tried to pry Harry’s fingers off of Cedric and the cup.

“Harry, you can’t help him now. It’s over. Let go.”

“He wanted me to bring him back,” Harry muttered with a sense of urgency. “He wanted me to bring him back to his parents…”

“That’s right, Harry…just let go now…” Dumbledore bent down and reached under Harry’s arm, pulling him off the ground and steadying him.

“He’ll need to go to the hospital wing!” Fudge yelled, dancing around them with his bowler hat clutched in his hands. “He’s ill, he’s injured -- Dumbledore, Diggory’s parents…they’re here, they’re in the stands…”

“I’ll take Harry, Dumbledore. I’ll take him –”

“No, I would prefer –“ Albus began, but he was cut off once again by Cornelius.

“Dumbledore, Amos Diggory’s running…he’s coming over…Don’t you think you should tell him -- Before he sees -- ?”

“Harry, stay here –“ Albus said calmly, sifting through the throngs of students towards Amos Diggory.

Alastor gruffly took Harry’s arm, a mixture of alarm and something unidentifiable on his scarred face. “It’s alright son, I’ve got you…come on…hospital wing…” Alastor added in undertones to Harry. But Harry’s gaze was unfocused as Moody helped him stand, and he murmured something unintelligible. Albus stopped abruptly, comprehension dawning on his face.

“Severus! Minerva!” He called above the crowd, and eventually the crowd parted, letting in the two teachers. “It appears we have found the source for tonight's events. Follow me.”

***

"Albus, do tell us what else could possibly be going on!” Minerva said, beside herself with anxiousness and anger. Severus watched Albus out of the corner of his eye, a scowl on his face and his dark eyes glittering in the light of the corridor.

“I’ll brief you in a moment,” Albus said fiercely, letting his anger overtake him. He took long strides, watching as the room came closer to him. Hold on, Harry. Albus stopped in front of the door, levelled his wand, and with surprising clarity, boomed, ‘Stupefy!’

The door burst off it’s hinges from the impact of the spell. After the smoke and wood chips dissapated, Albus glanced inside. The impostor was lying on the floor behind the desk, and Harry…Harry, white as a sheet, had his wand drawn, and a steely look of consternation twisting his face. “Moody,” Harry said, his voice shaking slightly as he spoke. “How could it have been Moody?”

“This is not Alastor Moody,” Dumbledore said quietly. “You have never known the real Alastor Moody…”

The room faded around Albus, and instead he found himself holding the vial of Veritaserum in clenched hands. Harry was sitting on a hard-backed chair with a look of quiet discomfort on his face. It was something Albus had never seen on the boy, and he found it strikingly painful to watch. Harry was ghastly pale, and seemed to be clutching his arm, shielding it from something. Severus leaned heavily against the desk, a look of resigned anger on his face while Minerva, eerily pale, pointed her wand at Crouch Jr. with a steady hand. Cords bound the young man, who stared straight ahead at nothingness with a derranged look on his face. It is so hard to imagine that boy without a soul.

“I want you to come up to my office first, Harry. Sirius is waiting for us there.”

Albus walked out into the corridor, following Harry and himself up to his office. The words that Crouch Jr. had spoken pained him greatly. A war was beginning to brew, and it was coming at a quickening pace. Eventually, Albus could see the stone gargoyle ahead of him and watched as he murmured the password and stepped inside, Harry limping after him. However, he didn’t follow. What Harry had told him reverberated in his senses - it all fit together in this myriad amount of puzzle pieces. There were parts even he couldn’t understand, yet there were clarities that made him wish he had pulled Harry out of the Tournament sooner. The blood was only one of them.

While he was sure that he knew how Lily had saved Harry in the first place, he wasn’t positive as to the purpose of sharing blood with Voldemort. Distinct advantages could possibly be used, yet he was definitely uncertain as to the repercussions this would have, especially on Harry. The scene was fading again, and this time, it materialized into the hospital wing. Sirius and Severus had just clenched and unclenched hands, extremely uncomfortable looks on their faces.

“That will do to be going with,” said Albus, stepping between them once more. “Now, I have work for each of you. Fudge’s attitude, though not unexpected, changes everything. Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher - the old crowd. Lie low at Lupin’s for a while; I will contact you there.”

“But -“ Harry said hesitantly.

“You’ll see me very soon, Harry,” Sirius said quietly as he strode over to Harry’s bed. “I promise you. But I must do what I can, you understand, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Harry said, crestfallen. “Yeah…of course I do.”

Sirius grasped his hand for a moment, nodded to Albus, then transformed again into the black dog and ran to the door, exiting. Albus, meanwhile, turned to Severus. “Severus, you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready…if you are prepared…” The words seemed to die in his throat. Severus looked at him for a moment, his eyes still glittering.

“I am,” he said quietly, his face going pale.

“Then good luck.” The words were thick in his throat, and he couldn’t control the look of apprehension on his face. Severus glanced at him once more before turning away and leaving the infirmary.

It had all happened so fast that Albus was sure his head was spinning. Looking back on it all now, everything was so incredibly obvious. Moody being impersonated by Crouch Jr. – the cup turned port key – the plot, putting Harry, himself and the rest of the Hogwarts staff and students in danger. It was elaborate. And it would’ve worked, had Harry not succeeded in getting away.

He stood before the Pensieve, now resting on his desk, with an air of great sadness. The night, which should have been joyful and exciting, turned into a nightmare for even himself. It was something he had expected since that night thirteen years ago, when James and Lily had died…he'd known that Voldemort wasn’t gone yet and would return. But now, it was escalating and he had to play his pieces wisely. The right people – the right strategy. It’s like a game of chess…. And then, the worst had come in the hospital wing.

Fudge, as bumbling as always, refused to accept things as they were. As always, he was more concerned for his image. And when things got too overbearing, his head dug itself into the sand. But other things had happened – Hagrid and Madame Maxime had been given an assignment – be sent as envoys to the giants. Hagrid had paled, Madame Maxime had wrung her hands in worry. Sirius had been sent to seek out Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher – his closest allies aside from Alastor. The worst, and yet most necessary had fallen into the hands of someone that had seen enough darkness in their life.

It was terrible to send Severus out to an uncertain fate – and yet, Severus understood. He knew, from the moment that Voldemort reawakened, that his old position would be needed. And now, at midnight in his office, Dumbledore felt a sense of foreboding that was ill on the part of Severus.

“Into the terrible night he goes. Yet whether or not he returns, I venture not to say. For I do not know myself,” Albus murmured quietly to him self as he watched the clock. The hand shuddered to a stop on four o’clock in the morning. Sleep was abating him, and at this point, Albus found that he couldn’t sleep, even with a potion. His thoughts, for some morose reason, wouldn’t let him forget his words to Severus.

Albus knew perfectly well what Severus was doing; he also knew the risks involved, and the possibility still stood that Severus might never return to his office again. There was a time when I thought you could never be trusted, Severus. However, you dissolved the mirror. You found yourself.

FIN

//
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