An unconscious girl lay immobile in a dark and damp dungeon. The girl's skin paled and her body seemed to shrink in on itself, as if she was being robbed of her vitality.
In fact, this was happening. The girl's very life was powering a rebirthing ritual. In no time at all, her life force would run out, and she would be naught but a dry husk, whereas the one performing the ritual would be empowered once more.
A masked man kneeling close to the girl's limp body gritted his teeth as he powered through the taxing ritual. The magic that he was performing would normally be performed by two wizards working in tandem, but with his Lord's guidance - and punishment- he had been able to succeed. Though, he was certain that his magic would be sluggish and unresponsive for weeks to come.
"My lord! The ritual is almost complete. In a few short moments, you shall be reborn. The girl shall die, and you shall return into glorious being and lead us into the Golden Age!", the masked man's impassioned voice cried out.
A disembodied whisper on the wind responded, "Good. I have waited too long for this moment. Yesss, after tonight, the world shall know that Lord Voldemort, has done as no other before him, and conquered death itself! It is fitting that my very own blood shall be used to resurrect me. This Granger girl shows much promise, as to be expected from someone of the Gaunt lineage, but there is only room for one Heir of Slytherin in this world, and that shall always be me!"
Without any warning, a bright red bolt slammed into the ground next to the kneeling man, making pieces of the floor explode into the air and sending the man flying back into the wall, knocking him unconscious.
The faceless voice called out furiously, "Who dares enter Slytherin's Chamber without the invitation of the Heir!?."
A tall, bespectacled man wearing a silvery robe strode calmly into vision, nose crooked and his lips upturned in silent amusement.
"Ahhh Tom. Haunting Hogwarts once again? You never did want to leave the school, I know, but this is a bit extreme isn't it? You studied here for seven years already! Surely you are not so rusty in your skills that you must come back here every year?"
"Dumbledore, you meddling fool. You always did ruin my fun, but not tonight. Tonight you shall witness Lord Voldemort's return. But first I will give you a little taste of my ancestor's power! Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four!".
From out of a carving in the wall of Salazar Slytherin, a massive snake emerged. The mighty basilisk had been summoned.
The basilisk flicked its tongue in acknowledgement of the command, and started slithering toward its intended prey.
Dumbledore averted his eyes but appeared unfazed. Instead, he repeatedly traced his wand through the air in a circular motion. By the time Dumbledore had made ten loops with his wand the Basilisk was already pouncing on him.
Before it could devour him whole, however, thick metal cables erupted out of all of the surfaces in the Chamber, and restrained the Basilisk. The massive serpent struggled fiercely, attempting to wriggle its way out of the hold that it was placed in, but Dumbledore's magic held strong. Next, Dumbledore conjured a large tarpaulin, and levitated it over the beast before unceremoniously dropping it over its entire body.
"Out of sight, out of mind as the muggles say. Now, Tom, the Basilisk was impressive I might say, but it could hardly hinder me. Respect an old man in his age. I fear however, that tonight's events have come to an end. You have murdered, or attempted to at the very least, too many of my students for me to be lenient on you."
"Lenient?! Curse your bleeding heart, Dumbledore. I am LOR-"
"Tom Marvolo Riddle, and still just a boy to me. Now begone from this place." With that, Dumbledore flicked out his wand and said succinctly, "Finite Incantatem".
The magical presence that had been building up immediately dissipated as the ritual that Dumbledore had targeted with his last spell was dispelled.
Albus Dumbledore, one of the most gifted Wizards in the United Kingdom, and the world at large, strode past Hermione's body towards the unidentified Death Eater who had attempted to resurrect Voldemort. As he approached, his wand whipped and slashed as he bound the man in rope, and conjured comfortable armchairs for himself and his prisoner. Satisfied, he made to awaken the man with a flick of his wrist but his hand stopped in mid-motion.
"Oh dear me. How forgetful of me!" Albus muttered to himself. "Fawkes!"
A bright flame abruptly burst into existence, illuminating the Chamber and chasing away the cold air that had begun settling in on Dumbledore's bones. As soon as it as appeared, the flame sputtered out and in its place was a magnificent creature: a vivid red and blue Phoenix.
"You are looking better than ever, my dear friend." The phoenix trilled in response to the complement.
"I have a task for you, Fawkes. Please escort Miss Granger to the Hospital Wing, I fear she has been through a great ordeal tonight."
Fawkes cooed once more and then immediately flew toward the immobile girl. Upon landing on her, a roaring flame streamed out of his wings and in an instant both the majestic phoenix and Hermione had disappeared.
"Ahh, back to business now. Rennervate." said Dumbledore, pointing his wand at his prisoner.
The masked man immediately startled awake, gulping for air. Even as he did that however, the man took in his bearings and noticed a few things: 1) The Dark Lord's shade was no longer present, 2) Dumbledore had succeeded in thwarting his plans and in capturing him, and 3) the Granger girl's body was missing.
Of those three observations the one that worried the masked man the most was, surprisingly, the third. This was not because the man had any attachment to the girl, apart from a bit of an attraction to her pubescent body, but because contained within the girl's robes was an object that was held most dearly by the Dark Lord. Worse than any punishment that Dumbledore or the Ministry could give him was the wrath he would face were the Dark Lord to discover he had misplaced his most precious object.
Hermione Granger had no way of knowing that she was currently in possession of one of her "cousin", Lord Voldemort's, most powerful and important items. In fact, she was in the possession of one of the most notorious magical items of all of Great Britain. Contained within her breast pocket was the Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw.
Oblivious, Dumbledore, proceeded with his interrogation. "I will give you the option of answering my questions right now or waiting for the Aurors to question you right now."
The man quivered in his seat but mustered up the courage to spit at Dumbledore. "I-I ss-s-shall wait for the Aurors. I have no-nothing to say to you, you old coot!"
"Well that is your right, my boy. But first, I will unmask you. Knowing Fudge, as I do, he might very well try to hush this up, but I must know who those who are aiding Tom are. You would do the same in my position." Dumbledore reached out his hand and removed the mask that had been covering the man's face.
The ornate mask fell to the ground with a soft thud.
The man's identity had serious ramifications for all of Great Britain, but especially for a man who at this moment served a life-sentence in Azkaban and a boy who should be sleeping soundly in the his dormitory in Gryffindor Tower. Moreover, it opened an old wound in Dumbledore's heart.
Fat tears ran passed Albus' deviated nose, and unto the floor.
"It can't be! It can't be! How could you! They were your friends. Your best friends!"
Peter Pettigrew, the man who had been mourned and celebrated as a martyr of the War, was alive and well. And serving the Dark Lord.