Wow, I am ecstatic! Everyone give yourself a pat on the back, we have reached over 200 reviews! Thank you all so much. I am now a review junkie! I believe the last count was 216.
I had someone ask, so just in case anyone else is wondering….I am not going to use Barty Crouch Jr. in this story. So use your imaginations to come up with some creative reason for why he is not around!
I had so many reviewers this time it's hard to respond to you all, I'm doing my best though. I don't normally respond in my post but I did have several anon. reviews so here are a few responses.
Ms Belle: Thank you! I'm glad you like the twist. I'm not sure if I'll use it in the place of the year 5 incident, but it will be different. We'll just have to see what happens when we get there lol.
Adenoide: I have to both agree and disagree with that one. Yes leaving Harry with the Dursley's was a big mistake, however I don't think it was the worst choice that Dumbledore made. I think that the worst choice he made was neglecting to actually check up on Harry after placing him there. After all, it was his decision to put him there, not the Ministry's, so technically Dumbledore went about it the wrong way anyway. It is just something that Dumbledore will have to deal with.
Mundi: I agree. I think I will wait a year or so before I throw Umbridge in there. I'm undecided. I may change that and put her in somewhere later in the story though. You never know. Does anyone want Umbridge in this story? Review and let me know!
Hope Healer: Does Harry find his wand? Yes, but probably not in the sense you all are thinking evil grin
Okay, the disclaimer, and then on with the chapter!
Thank you Draeconin my nitpicker beta, for going over these chapters and making them understandable! Everybody needs a Draeconin!
Disclaimer: If you know or recognize it, then unfortunately it's not mine. Bites, doesn't it?
Harry entered the interrogation room, gulping nervously as he made his way to the long table in the middle of the room. He sat himself down between his granddad and Severus.
Just in case of any nosey passersby, Moody turned and placed a silencing charm on the door, to be sure they couldn't hear a thing. He grunted and walked over to the long wooden table to join the others.
"Alastor, who else will be joining us?" Albus Dumbledore inquired of the man.
"Fudge has demanded that Crouch be in charge of the interrogation. I offered, but seeing as I'm retired and they only brought me in for the match, they denied me. Shacklebolt and I will be here to make sure everything is done by the book, but Crouch will be the one asking the questions," Moody answered.
"What can we expect from this, Moody?" Severus asked.
"At worst the boy will be held in custody, they will set a trial, and he will remain until the end of the trial. At best they will clear him as a suspect, and he will be free to go," replied the retired auror.
Harry, at hearing the first possibility, started shaking where he sat. He knew that he shouldn't be worried: that he hadn't cast the mark; he hadn't even had his wand, for Merlin's sake! He still didn't even have his wand. He knew that wouldn't stop them from blaming him, though. Look at what happened to Sirius; he didn't even get a trial!
Sensing his grandson's nervousness, Albus placed his hand on the boy's arm, trying to pass on some calming energy. Severus, who sensed it also, did the same on Harry's other side. It must have worked, because the boy took in a deep breath of air and his shaking calmed considerably.
Harry felt minimally reassured, having both his great grandfather and his guardian there with him. He knew deep down that they wouldn't let anything happen to him. His worry, even though ebbed to a point, did not subside altogether. He still knew what the MLE was capable of. They didn't care if they truly caught the person responsible, as long as it looked like they did.
Harry, who was deep in his own panicked thoughts at the moment, finally noticed someone talking to him when his guardian lightly squeezed his arm.
"Mr. Potter? Harry? Are you alright my boy?" his granddad was asking him.
Harry turned to his granddad while trying to shake the gloomy thoughts from his head. "Um, yes sir; I'm sorry. What were you saying?"
"Severus was wondering if you would like a calming drought?" the old man answered.
"I think I'll be alright, but I may want one later," Harry answered, looking at his guardian.
"Very well; I believe the others should be here any moment."
As if Severus had summoned them, the door suddenly opened to reveal the figure of Mr. Crouch, escorted by Auror Shacklebolt.
"Good, good, everyone is here; let's get started then. Headmaster, I was not aware that you would be attending," Crouch stated, with a concerned look at Dumbledore.
"Why yes, Barty. You see, Mr. Potter here is currently staying at the castle for the summer whilst he is in the care of Professor Snape. If there is any business involving any one of the castle's current residents, I feel I must do what I can in the best interests of those parties involved."
"I assure you that I do not believe Mr. Potter is the person responsible for conjuring the Dark Mark. He is merely a child, and it takes a witch or wizard of great power, dark power, to conjure it. Mr. Potter does not even have his wand," Albus answered, with that same twinkle in his eye.
"Be that as it may, Headmaster, it is our responsibility as the Magical Law Enforcement to question Mr. Potter until we feel that his innocence is genuine. He was found directly under where the Mark was cast, within seconds of the actual casting. There are no witnesses to say that Mr. Potter was not the one to cast the Mark. He has no wand on his person to prove he was not the caster either. You have to see this from our perspective, Headmaster. All of the evidence points to Mr. Potter. We are merely taking the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the magical community. You cannot fault us for that," Crouch responded.
"Certainly not, Barty; however, as you yourself stated, there were no witnesses to prove Mr. Potter did, in fact, conjure the Mark. Did you search Mr. Potter or the area for a wand upon arrival? Did you check the vicinity for any traces of apparition or portkeys?" asked Dumbledore.
"Yes we did Albus, we are not mere rookies!" Crouch roared, obviously frustrated by Dumbledore's questions. "There was no wand found within a twenty meter radius of where Mr. Potter was found. Who's to say Mr. Potter did not simply banish his wand or use a spell to make it accessible to anyone but himself! It would have been pointless to check for traces of apparition or portkeys with the events up until the Mark occurred! I am sure many people tried to apparate or use a portkey to flee the situation!"
Albus Dumbledore merely lowered his head for a moment to try to cam himself. Severus, on the other hand, was becoming almost enraged by the stupidity of the man before them.
"Crouch, think about this! Harry Potter is a fourteen year old boy, the same boy who defeated Voldemort at the same time the monster murdered his parents! Not only that, but it would require the use of wandless magic! How many fourteen year old children have you ever come across that could do the simplest 'lumos' or levitation charm at that age, never mind a banishing charm or anything else of that magnitude!" Severus raged back at the man.
"I concede to your point; nonetheless, we will need to conduct an official interrogation report before he can be cleared as a suspect in the event. If Mr. Potter refuses to answer the questions to our satisfaction, we will have no choice but to detain him until a trial," Crouch responded in a half defeated tone.
"Mr. Potter, do you wish to continue with this interrogation?" Shacklebolt, who remained quiet up until this point, asked.
Harry sighed, "Yes sir, I would."
"Very well, then: gentlemen, have a seat." The Auror gestured to the table, which everyone but Harry had evacuated during the debate.
"Mr. Potter, what were you doing during the time the Dark Mark was conjured?" asked Crouch.
Harry swallowed nervously and took a deep breath, "Well, my friends and I were trying to make it to the woods to use our portkeys to leave. We were in a large crowd of people, and I tripped. I regained my balance, but by that time I had lost the others. I went around to the front of the tents where it wasn't crowded to try to catch up with everyone else. I-"
"Surly Mr. Potter, being who you are, you took a moment to consider your own safety. You honestly expect us to believe that you risked that safety to enter a deserted area where, knowingly, Death Eaters had just passed, causing bodily harm and trouble, just to 'catch up' to your friends? I highly doubt that was the case, Mr. Potter," Crouch interrupted.
Harry clamped his jaw tightly, trying his best not to explode at the man that held Harry's future in his hands. "Correct, sir, that was not the case. I did worry for my
safety, which is why I looked and decided this after I noticed that the ministry officials had the Death Eaters under control several tents away before I came out in the open."
"Very well, you may continue. What happened after you deemed it safe?" Crouch asked with some doubt in his voice.
"I started to jog towards the trees. I had passed maybe one tent when I saw someone over on the other side wearing a black cloak with the hood up." He told those in the room.
"Could you see what the person looked like Potter?" asked Moody.
"No sir, it was too dark and their hood covered their face." He answered.
"How about how tall they were? Were they large or slender?" Moody grunted.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and tried to picture the person in his head. "About average height, maybe five and a half feet tall. I'd say maybe about nine stone? They weren't big, but they weren't really slender, either," he tried to explain.
"What happened next, Potter?" asked Crouch.
"Well, I started to try to back away between a couple of tents, hoping the person wouldn't notice me. It was too late though, by the time I started to back away the person spoke. It was a woman's voice," he told them.
"What did she say, Mr. Potter?" inquired Auror Shacklebolt.
Harry scrunched his eyes up trying to appear to be remembering what the woman had said. In reality he was debating on what to tell them. He was worried if he told them that she had said he was a naughty boy, then they would assume he had done something to be naughty. Yet if he didn't tell them what she said, then they would accuse him of making the whole thing up. So therefore, he did the next best thing; "Well, I can't remember exactly what she said, but she pointed her wand at me and said something along the lines of telling me to stay where I was and that I was in trouble. Except she said it all creepy, like she was mocking me."
Harry glimpsed quickly sideways at his guardian while no one was looking to see if he had done the right thing. He released a breath he didn't realize he was holding when he saw Severus give a quick, obscure nod of his head.
"What did you do then, Potter?" Crouch demanded.
Harry, not liking the man's tone, paused a moment before answering in order to try to get himself under control. "I went to draw my wand. If she was going to try anything, the least I could do was try to defend myself. That's when I noticed my wand was gone. I had it in my pocket, but when I reached for it, it was gone."
"And we are just to believe that this person wanted to conjure the Dark Mark and leave, so that you could be arrested? Pray tell, Mr. Potter, what would be the point in that?" snarled Crouch.
Harry gave an exasperated sigh before shouting out "I don't know! It didn't seem like she just planned on conjuring it and leaving! She was threatening me with her wand, and then we heard all of you coming closer, and she let out some sort of growl like she was angry, and then she conjured the Mark and disapparated away. I'm not a bloody lunatic, so how am I supposed to know what one is thinking.?"
Severus and the headmaster both put a hand on the boy's shoulder to try to calm him. It wouldn't do any good for him to lose control and unleash wild, raw magic. That would definitely not help their case.
"Barty, if you would allow me a moment to confer with the boy's guardian?" his granddad asked.
Crouch looked over at Shacklebolt who shrugged as if to say 'What could it hurt'. "Fine, you have five minutes. The room will be locked from the outside, do not try to leave." With that he stormed out of the interrogation room. Moody and Shacklebolt nodded to the room's other occupants, and followed their boss out the door.
"What is it, Albus?" Severus asked
"It seems that Barty is quite desperate to pin this on someone, even if it is Harry Potter. I believe that the only choice we have is to allow them to submit Harry to veritaserum. I hoped to avoid this route, but it seems that Cornelius has been quite adamant with Barty about getting Harry to trial," Albus sadly announced.
"But Albus..." Severus exclaimed, "we can't allow them to question him like that! Think about all of the 'recent discoveries' that have been made. If word gets out, it could be utter chaos! Not to mention the other information that the boy has considering himself and others. Do you really want Fudge and Crouch to gain such information?" Severus objected.
"No, but I'm afraid it's the only way. We will inform them that they may administer the veritaserum, however, he will only be permitted to answer questions pertaining to the events of this evening. We will also remain present, and if any questions are asked that would reveal anything that does not strictly apply to the conjuring of the Mark, we will place a silencing charm on Harry and end the questions. Those will be our conditions. If they don't like it, then we will go to the press. If it comes to that, he will be released shortly after the public receives the morning edition of The Daily Prophet! Either way, it will be a win-win situation for us," Dumbledore replied with a bright twinkling in his eyes.
"Fine. I do not like it, however, as you said, I do not see any way around it. They may administer one drop after I have inspected it myself. One drop should be sufficient seeing that the boy barely weighs eight stone." Severus acquiesced.
"Harry, do you understand what we need you to do?" his granddad asked him.
"I think so, granddad. You want me to take a drop of veritaserum so they will know I'm telling the truth about everything, and you and Severus will make sure that they don't ask any questions that could reveal anything they shouldn't know. If they try to, then you'll have to silencio me. If they try to detain me for anything, then you will go to The Daily Prophet and report it; and when the public finds out, they are basically going to have a riot on their hands," he reiterated.
"Very good, Harry my boy," praised Dumbledore.
Just as they had finished agreeing, Mr. Crouch stormed back in saying, "Your five minutes are up!"
"We have a compromise for you, Barty. We will allow you to administer one drop of veritaserum that has been approved by Professor Snape. You may then question Mr. Potter on the events of this evening past, that are related to the time leading up to and including the time the Dark Mark was conjured."
"If any questions are asked outside of these events, or questions are asked to reveal any information we feel is irrelevant to the crime, we will silence Mr. Potter and administer the antidote. If he is unfairly taken into custody because of this, we will notify the public immediately and the consequences will be on your shoulders. Do we have a deal?" Albus finished.
Severus watched both the Headmaster and Crouch, only moving his eyes, while the headmaster explained the conditions. Albus had a look of pure determination in his
eyes; there was no twinkle present as he spoke with the man. Crouch, on the other hand, appeared to have many emotions swirling in the depths of his orbs.
"I will agree, however I will be the one to ask the questions. Do you not trust us? Why do you wish this…man, to test our stock of veritaserum?" Crouch inquired snidely.
"Severus is Mr. Potter's guardian, and on top of that he is Britain's youngest Potions Master, to date. So if there are no other questions, I say we let him approve the substance, and get started. I would like to get at least some semblance of sleep tonight," Albus told Mr. Crouch. He dropped his head a fraction of an inch to look at the man over his half moon spectacles.
"Very well: Shacklebolt, please retrieve the veritaserum." Shacklebolt left the room, and returned a moment later with a small phial of clear liquid.
"One drop is not remotely strong enough; he may be able to resist it. I insist on using two drops," Crouch demanded.
"Not unless you wish to interrogate a walking zombie!" Severus snapped. "The boy doesn't even weigh eight stone! Two drops would render him addled! It is one drop or none: your choice, Mr. Crouch."
"Fine, fine; whatever; just get this over with," replied Crouch.
"Auror Shacklebolt…" Albus gestured to the phial, and then to Severus.
Shacklebolt handed the phial of clear liquid to Severus who uncorked the bottle. He held the bottle up to his eyes and swished it around, checking it for any visual abnormalities. After checking that off on his mental check list, he brought the bottle up to his nose and sniffed. Harry assumed that it passed inspection as well. Severus then swiped his pinky finger on the inside rim of the phial and touched it to his tongue.
Severus, being a grown adult weighing in at a normal weight, and being slightly immune to the substance, was not affected by the liquid. He replaced the cork in the phial and handed it back to Auror Shacklebolt with a slight nod of his head for approval.
"You may proceed: remember, one drop," Severus told the man sternly.
Shacklebolt walked over to where Harry was still sitting at the table, and gently said, "Stick out your tongue please, Mr. Potter."
Harry, with a quick glance over to his granddad and guardian for reassurance, did as he was asked and stuck out his tongue. Shacklebolt quickly and efficiently uncorked the bottle and tipped one single drop of the clear truth serum into Harry's mouth.
Harry's eyes immediately became slightly glazed over. Severus walked over to his charge, placed his fingers under the boy's chin and lifted his head up to meet his eyes. He watched his charge for a moment, checking his pulse, watching his breathing, and keeping a check on his eyes to make sure he would not have any adverse effects to the potion. Once he was satisfied that Harry would be fine, he looked over at Crouch and told the man, "You may proceed …carefully."
Crouch went over and stood directly across from his suspect. "What is your full name?"
"Harry James Potter," came the reply, which was void of any emotion.
"Do you know where you were around midnight tonight?" Crouch asked.
Crouch looked over at Shacklebolt confused; he didn't understand why the boy didn't know that he was at the World Cup.
Albus nodded his head at Crouch and turned to Harry, "Harry? Do you remember what event you were attending tonight at around midnight?"
"The Quidditch World Cup," came the monotone reply.
"Mr. Potter, why were you not with the others when they arrived at the trees?" Crouch asked.
"I tripped and lost them," Harry replied.
"What did you do after you were separated?"
"I went around to the other side of the tents, out of the crowd, to try to find them again."
"Did you feel it would be safe?"
"Why did you feel it would be safe, Potter?" interjected Moody.
"The Ministry had already begun to disperse the Death Eaters, and they were several tents back. I was going in the opposite direction," Harry responded with no emotion whatsoever.
"Were you alone on that side of the tents?" asked Crouch.
"Who was there with you?" Crouch inquired.
"I don't know."
"Did you see what they looked like?"
"Could you tell if it was a witch or wizard?"
"It was a witch," Harry deadpanned.
"Did you feel threatened?" Crouch hedged.
"Did you take out your wand?"
"Why not?" asked Crouch.
"I did not have it."
"Where was your wand, Potter?"
"I don't know."
"Where is your wand?"
"I don't know." Harry repeated.
"Did you conjure the Dark Mark?"
"Did you see who did?" Crouch asked in exasperation. He had a feeling he was going to have to disappoint Minister Fudge without any evidence to hold the boy.
"Did you recognize the person? Or was it the person that you described?"
"No OR Yes Mr. Potter, which one is it?" Crouch replied impatiently as he placed both hands on the table and leaned in, trying to intimidate the boy.
"Both," Harry replied.
"Please explain, Harry," Dumbledore calmly instructed.
"No, I did not recognize the person; yes it was the person I described."
"What happened after this person conjured the Dark Mark?" Crouch asked.
"They disapparated away."
"What made them leave?"
"They heard the ministry officials coming towards us," Harry droned.
Crouch shook his head and sighed in exasperation. "What happened next, Mr. Potter?"
"People started apparating in around me, and I ducked." he answered.
"Very well; administer the antidote, Snape," Crouch stated, as he sat a bottle of blue liquid on the table in front of the boy.
"Moody, Shacklebolt, follow me." He then told the two aurors. He then turned back to Severus and the others and simply stated, "Don't leave," and walked out of the room.
Albus Dumbledore looked over at his great grandson and his Potions Master/Professor; the twinkle was back in his eyes full blast. He smiled and nodded to the both of them. "I think we shall be returning to the castle in a few minutes, dear boys," he stated with a wink at the both of them.
Things stayed fairly quiet for the next few minutes while they waited for the 'verdict'. When Crouch and the aurors returned, only a few minutes after they left, Crouch had a defeated look on his face.
"Upon hearing your testimony under the influence of the truth serum, we have no choice but to let you go. We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you.
If there is anything we can do to make it up to you, all you need to do is let us know," Crouch told Harry.
"Headmaster, Professor, thank you for your time as well. You are all free to go."
As soon as Crouch left the room with Shacklebolt, who gave a small bow to the other occupants before leaving, Moody looked over and saw Harry starting to turn blue from lack of oxygen. "Breath, Boy!" he commanded.
Harry, who hadn't realized he was holding his breath the whole time, suddenly took in a huge lungful of air and started coughing. Severus started lightly slapping him on the back, until Harry nodded at the man that he was ok.
"Glad that's over. Can we go now? I think I'm exhausted," stated Harry.
Albus chuckled. "Certainly, Harry; I am quite ready for some sleep myself." He then turned to the retired auror.
"Alastor, if you wouldn't mind stopping by sometime tomorrow afternoon, I have something I would like to discuss with you."
"I'll stop by, Albus," Moody grunted.
Harry thought the man sure did grunt a lot. It seemed like every time he spoke, he was either grunting or growling. He figured that the guy must have been a good auror though; why else would they have brought him back from retirement for the World Cup?
"Well, what do you boys say we head on back to the castle now?" asked Dumbledore with his arm gesturing towards the open door.
The group of three made their way to the fireplace they entered through. When they got there, Albus took a small pouch out of one of the pockets in his robes and held it out to Severus.
Severus took a small handful of the floo powder that was in the bag, stepped into the fireplace, threw down the powder, and shouted, "Headmaster's Office: Hogwarts!"
Once he was gone, his granddad held the bag out for Harry, who took a handful, stepped in the fireplace throwing down the powder, and shouting the same destination his guardian previously announced.
Harry stumbled out of the fireplace and would have fallen flat on his face if someone hadn't caught him by the arm and kept him on his feet. Severus used a spell to clean the soot off of Harry's clothes, and the two stepped over to the center of the office.
With a 'woosh' the two turned to see the Headmaster stepping out of the floo, and cleaning off his robes just as Severus had done for Harry.
"Well, it seems that you will need to acquire a new wand, Harry, my boy. Severus, why don't the two of you sleep in tomorrow, and then you can take Harry into town tomorrow afternoon to get him a new wand and his school supplies," Albus told the two.
"Now I am sure we are all tired after this ordeal, so why don't we all head to bed?"
Harry walked over and gave his Granddad a hug and told the man goodnight, while Severus merely inclined his head to his mentor.
By the time the two finished their silent trek down to the bowels of the castle it was nearing five in the morning. After entering their quarters, they each entered their own room to prepare for and head to bed.
Harry, after changing his clothes and brushing his teeth, laid down heavily on his bed, not bothering to crawl under the covers, and fell fast asleep.
Harry was too far into a deep sleep to notice Severus come in, walk over to his bed and tuck him in, brushing his hair off of his forehead, and silently telling him, "Good night, and sleep well, my child," before leaving just as quietly as he came.
Thank you all, and please remember to review! :)