A/N – I own nothing
Chapter 1: Caina: The Ninth Circle of Hell
For in the first ring of Caina are the betrayers of kindred
Dante, The Inferno, Canto XXXII notes
Little Hangleton Cemetery, 2000, 24 May 1995
"Robe Me." And so the resurrection of the Dark Lord Voldemort was complete. Harry stared with a terrified morbid fascination as the repulsive form of Voldemort was covered by Pettigrew. As the Dark Lord explored his new body with an almost sensual air, Harry was thinking frantically on how to escape as the Dark Lord first summoned his slaves and then ranted at Harry.
What would Hermione do? I can't apparate, I need a portkey. Or to run like hell out of here. Maybe the cup will get me back to school.
Thoughts of escape were interrupted as the slaves of Lord Voldemort, commonly known as Death Eaters, had their somewhat painful reunion with their master. Pettigrew, Avery, Malfoy, Macnair, Crabbe, Goyle, Nott… They were all there, scraping in subservience to the monster while he ranted at them for their unfaithfulness.
"…None of you even attempted to come to my side. You all believed that this so called 'child of prophecy' had vanquished me, I who have gone further down the road to immortality than any other, I who am the heir of Salazar Slytherin…"
Why does the bad guy always waste time ranting about how smart they are and how dumb the good guys are? And what the hell does he mean by 'child of prophecy?' thought Harry as he tried to surreptitiously loosen his bonds.
Pain. Beyond imagination. Feeling as if his bones were being ripped from his body, all capacity for coherent thought fled from Harry. After Voldemort lifted the Cruciatus from Harry, his body twitched and spasmed with the aftereffects of the curse. Oh God Mione, how do I get out of this? That fucking hurt.
Harry's thinking was interrupted as the traitorous Pettigrew cut him down from the tombstone to which he was tied. Arms numb, chest sore from the previously constricting ropes, Harry continued to search for an escape. He considered doing a runner, but that idea was squashed as the Death Eaters formed a loose circle around Voldemort and him. His ankle was barely supporting him as it was and now Voldemort wanted to duel, beginning with a bow.
"Bow before we begin Harry, the niceties must be observed. Bow to death" crowed the Dark Lord as his supporters laughed like the toadies they were.
Screw you Voldemort, I won't bow to a monster like you. "No Tom, I don't think I will bow to you" replied Harry with more bravado than he felt. The graveyard fell silent in an instant. The Death Eaters looked on with trepidation, waiting for the inevitable explosion from their master. Voldemort merely gave a thin smile and cast "IMPERIO, bow to me Harry".
No, no, no, no "NO! Damn you Tom! NO!" Realizing the situation was only going to get worse, Harry mustered all his strength and broke thought the encircling Death Eaters and began to run towards where he remembered the Triwizard cup to be, next to Cedrics' body. Casting blasting curses and disarming charms as fast as he could, there was quite a bit of confusion. Unwittingly, half of the curses he cast were silent. In his desperation and terror, his will was almost forcing these spells from his wand. Chips of stone where thrown in the Death Eaters faces, dirt and dust filled the air. Then Harry cast "INCENDIO" at, he thought, Macnair. Ha! That's for Buckbeak and Hagrid you prick. As Macnairs screams filled the night, Harry caught a glimpse of the glow from the cup off to his left. He ran over towards it as best he could, still casting blasting hexes and disarming charms over his shoulder to maintain a semblance of a covering fire.
Once he could see Cedric's body, Harry made an obvious choice: I have to take him back. Straddling Cedric's body, Harry pointed his wand and was about to cast the summoning charm when a form loomed up on his left: Wormtail. Instinctively lashing out and punching Pettigrew in the throat with his left hand, Harry returned his attention to the cup and cast "ACCIO cup" while grasping Pettigrew by the hair with his left hand.
He had made it.
Hogwarts Quidditch Pitch, 1945 24 May 1995
The hedges that comprised the maze for the third task of the Triwizard Tournament had just disappeared. Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum had been retrieved earlier by the professors and the Hogwarts students where excited that one of their own would be the victor of the tournament. Harry Potter was leading in points, but if Cedric Diggory beat him to the cup by a great margin, he would come from behind Harry to win the tournament. The covert betting house that the Weasley twins where running was doing a large business, heavy on Harry to win.
Hermione Granger sat next to Ron Weasley, ignoring the whole byplay, her entire focus on Harry and his progression through the maze. There was a large screen above the maze that apparently the contestants couldn't see that was switching back and forth between the champions, focusing in on one when they reached an obstacle. Hermione clutched the pamphlet in her hands as Harry passed though the Confundus mist; sighed in relief as he passed the boggart/dementor; and was very proud as Harry quickly solved the riddle of the Sphinx. The entire crowd was shocked into silence when the screen showed Viktor Krum using the Cruciatus Curse on Cedric and Harry's subsequent stunning of Viktor. At this point, Ron turned on Hermione and spat "I told you Krum was no good! Look what he's done!"
"Ronald, I really don't want to talk about that right now. The only thing I care about is Harry getting safely out of the maze. So do us all a favor and shut up." All year Hermione had been very patient and understanding with the red headed prat sitting next to her, and in her worry and outright fear for Harry, she had run out of patience. The large black dog sitting on Hermione's other side gave a soft "woof" of agreement.
Now, as the hedges fell, her worst fears that something was going to go very, very wrong were realized and she screamed in terror. In her thoughts she tried to deny the witness of her eyes Dear God no, please no!Harry and Cedric where gone.
Up in the judges box, Albus Dumbledore immediately called out "FAWKES!" With Cornelius Fudge sputtering behind him about "I demand to know what's going on" and "I'm the Minister for Magic", Albus made a request of the pure light creature "Fawkes, please find Harry and Cedric and bring them back here as soon as you can." As the firebird flamed away, Albus turned to his heads of house, "Please escort all students to their common rooms immediately, no one is to leave their common room for any reason." Making eye contact with Minerva McGonagall, he leaned in to her ear and said "Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley may stay here, so long as they stay with Sirius." Nodding in return, she went over to the students to pass the message.
Watching Professor McGonagall herd her lions up to the castle, Hermione clutched at Padfoot with tears flowing down her face unchecked. Where is he? What if he doesn't make it back? NO! He has to make it back! Oh God, please bring him back!
Watching Hermione, Ron couldn't help the jealousy and resentment that was flaring in his chest. He doubted Hermione would ever worry about him the way she was currently worried about Harry. "Don't worry Hermione; this is just another little stunt of Harry's. No doubt he just thought he'd get a little more attention by doing this."
Hermione looked at Ron in stunned disbelief as Padfoot growled at him. "Ronald, you are the most ignorant, selfish, immature person it has ever been my great displeasure to meet. I don't need your childish shit now. Either shut the hell up, or go back to the common room!" Knowing that he'd crossed a line by causing Hermione of all people to swear at him, Ron chose the best path available and was silent.
With Cornelius Fudge starting to shout "Aurors! Aurors!", Hermione turned around and saw a flicker of pseudo-motion and Harry, Pettigrew and Cedric portkeyed back to Hogwarts. As Padfoot began barking and started to bound forward at the traitor, Hermione whipped out her wand and shouted "STUPEFY" and the red bolt of energy impacted Pettigrew in the chest. She followed this up by sprinting as fast as she could to Harry, as he staggered toward her, his arm and leg bleeding freely. Shock and relief on his face as he saw her. With his wand still in his hand, he threw his arms around her as she embraced him. He managed to mutter, "Mione…" before he passed out.
Hogwarts Infirmary 2200 24 May 1995
Harry awoke hearing muted arguments and someone wailing and sobbing. He felt someone holding on to his left hand. Turning his head, he saw Hermione there, the tracks of tears still evident on her face, both of her hands grasping his one. On her right, closest to his headboard, was Padfoot with his head propped on the bed, eyes watching him. She whispered, "Harry? Are you awake? How do you feel?"
"Yeah, I'm awake. Hurts like hell all over though." and his body twitched and spasmed slightly in the aftereffects of the Cruciatus curse.
Padfoot whined at that and looked up to Hermione who said "The good news is that Wormtail was apprehended tonight. The Aurors took him to the Ministry and he'll be questioned tonight under veritaserum." She nudged the great black dog next to her and continued "This one here might like that. It could mean no more Dursleys. Madame Pomphrey already gave you a pain potion and a Cruciatus restorer potion. It was about 10 minutes ago, so they should kick in soon." At this point the brave façade she'd been maintaining crumpled and she brought her hand to her mouth and sobbed. "Oh Harry, I was so worried. I don't know what I would have done if you didn't come back."This isn't helping him! Keep it together!
"You are why I made it back." Harry said in an undertone. "When I was being tortured or tied up, I thought 'What would Hermione do?' and I felt hope. I'm not sure right now why, but I really needed to get back to you here." he added without looking her in the eye. Because I think I love you, that's why.
At this point the mass of adults noticed that Harry was awake and converged on him like vultures. The first one to speak was the Headmaster. "Harry, how are you and could you please tell us what happened?"
"Professor, I feel terrible, and instead of retelling the whole story, could I just give you a pensieve memory? You and Minister Fudge and everyone else can view it. I'm just really tired right now."
Albus produced his pensieve and after assisting Harry to retrieve his memory of the evening, Harry spoke up and said "I need to tell you all something first. Voldemort is back. You'll see all the details in the memory, but he's back." Gasps were heard and a renewed wailing from the now identified source of Molly Weasley. Hermione redoubled her grip on Harry, as if he would slip away if she let go. Harry turned to her looking to her desperately and she catapulted herself into his arms. At this point, Ron stomped out of the hospital wing, dragging his sobbing mother who was wailing about "just a boy."
Just before the Headmaster, the Minister and a few others were to enter the memory, Professor Moody began to act very strangely and twitching he reached for his flask. Finding it empty, Moody noticed Albus Dumbledore staring at him intently and he started to run out of the infirmary. Before anyone could see him draw his wand, Dumbledore had stunned and bound the now supposed imposter of Mad-Eye Moody. Levitating him to a bed, he muttered, "I'll deal with you in a moment." Turning back to everyone, he continued "But first things first. Minister, will you precede me?"
An hour or so later, Dumbledore, Fudge, McGonagall, Flitwick and the others emerged from the pensieve, blanched and shaken. Hermione was curled up on the bed next to Harry while they both slept. Padfoot stood watch at the foot of their bed and raised his head at the approach of everyone. An owl flew in the window and delivered a thick message to the Minister.
"It appears that Pettigrew has confessed to not only killing the 12 muggles that we believed Black to be guilty of, but also being the Potters secret keeper. Oh dear, the Prophet is going to have a field day with this. Here Albus, I need you, as Chief Warlock, to countersign this declaration of innocence for Black. I'll have it released in the press tomorrow so he'll know. Apparently Amelia has already contacted all DMLE forces and the muggle authorities."
As Dumbledore finished signing with a flourish, he said "I don't think we need to worry about notifying Sirius" and looking at Padfoot "do we?"
Sirius transformed back and he immediately asked "What did you see?"
Heaving a great sigh, as if before picking up a heavy load, Dumbledore confirmed Voldemorts' return with a nod. The Minister, who had hit emotional saturation with the return of Voldemort and now Sirius Black standing in front of him, was starting to panic and looked to Dumbledore with a pleading expression. "Cornelius, we have much to do immediately. As Chief Warlock, and as your friend, I strongly advise you to remove the dementors from Azkaban, and send an envoy to the giants. The dementors are not 'tame'; they are demons and will rejoin Voldemort at their first opportunity. As such, Azkaban is not secure. If you'd like, I will approach the Goblins about hiring Goblin Mercenaries to staff the prison for now. Also, if we can get the giants to at least take a stand of neutrality, that will be a great gain and remove a terror weapon from Voldemorts quiver. I urge you to move with all haste. Time is truly of the essence here."
"I'll think about the dementors Albus. I'm not sure if I, or the pubic for that matter, trust the goblins anymore than the dementors. The giants… well, the envoy will leave tomorrow."
"Cornelius, our entire society trusts the Goblins with our gold and most precious possessions, how can we object to them guarding our prisoners as well?" pointed out the Headmaster.
At this point, everyone noticed that Harry and Hermione had awoken. As Hermione sat up and got back into her chair, the Headmaster, looking older than Harry had ever seen him, addressed him "Harry, I cannot apologize enough for what you went through tonight. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you better, and Fawkes couldn't get to you fast enough once you'd been taken. I'll ask Miss Granger and Sirius to stay with you tonight if that's acceptable."
Hermione nodded vigorously You couldn't pry me away. I'm not going anywhere. Harry did a double take looking from Sirius to the Minister and back. If it had been any other night it would have been comical. But tonight Sirius just smiled and said "I'm free, the rat confessed."
"One last thing Sirius" said the headmaster as he moved to leave. "Are you the head of the house of Black? With your unfortunate incarceration, I am unsure as to your status."
Sirius looked at Dumbledore strangely and told him that, yes, he is the head of the house of Black, and therefore, Lord Black.
"Interesting. Thank you." and the old Headmaster departed.
Sirius looked at the two teenagers and said "OK you two, settle down and get some sleep, I'll stay up and keep a watch out." Harry didn't need to be told twice, and was asleep within minutes, holding desperately onto Hermione's hand.
A/N – Tip of the hat to so many authors who have influenced this story: MadScientist (whose format I unashamedly have stolen), chem prof, canoncansofoff, mathias granger and so on. If I haven't mentioned you, I apologize for the oversight. Would love any and all reviews.