Title: Not Everything Is As It Seems
A/N: Blech. Okay, so I really like the flashback on this one, but as for the present time section... eww. And it was the big moment and everything, and it's just... I dunno. I don't like it. Hope you guys are satisfied, because I'm not.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
The rest of Fred's sixth year passed rather uneventfully, with the exception of a few moments that just couldn't have been ignored.
The first was the Yule Ball, a royal debacle in his opinion. Sure, Angelina had been a fantastic date, and they had ended up dancing late past midnight... late enough, in fact, to enter the common room just as Hermione and Ron were having a blazing row. Fred found this to be an inopportune moment to mention to George that it was really Hermione he had been keen on taking, that he had felt that hot, jealous pressure in his chest again at the sight of her with Krum, and looking so beautiful... no, that hadn't seemed very appropriate, what with Hermione sobbing over the fact that Ron hadn't taken her to the ball.
Fred had managed to push those feelings aside until the Second Task reared its ugly head. He found it really infuriating, actually, that no one had warned him that Ron, his own brother, ran the risk of being knocked out and dumped into a lake. And it was only natural to worry about Hermione as well... they were friends, after all.
George had pointed out snidely that Fred's face had become murderous upon realizing that Hermione was the one thing Krum "treasured most". Then again, what did George know, really?
And then, quite suddenly, they had arrived at the Third Task. It was, by far, the most boring of all the challenges, for the occupants of the stadium had nothing to stare at but a massive green hedge, the champions having vanished into the depths of the maze long ago. Fred sat sandwiched between George and Hermione, finding that he was quite glad Ron was separated from her by Ginny.
Hermione, however, did not seem to be enjoying herself. Ten minutes into the task, Dean and Seamus had started chucking bits of food at them from higher up in the stands, and Ginny, Fred, and George had retaliated with their own smuggled desserts.
Fred sat back down from lobbing an entire cauldron cake at Seamus to find Hermione white-faced and jittery, her legs doing a little nervous jig.
"C'mon, Herms," Fred said good-naturedly, throwing an arm around her shoulders. "There's nothing to worry about. Harry'll be fine."
Hermione shook her head, looking as if she were in a trance. "No," she said, "that maze is dangerous. I mean, Harry doesn't even know what's in it, how can he possibly be prepared?"
"Duck!" Someone cried, and Fred obliged, pulling Hermione with him as a pumpkin pasty whizzed over them, hitting Neville Longbottom squarely in the back of the head.
"Look," Fred said as they sat back up again, "there's nothing you can do about it now. Harry's in the maze, that's that. So why not try to enjoy yourself?"
He suddenly noticed that Hermione had little pieces of treacle tart in her hair, and he was seized with a sudden desire to brush them away. She beat him to it, thankfully before he could embarrass himself, pulling them out with a look of slight disgust.
"This isn't exactly my idea of fun," she said wryly, jerking her head in the direction of Dean and Seamus, both of whom were now brandishing licorice wands like swords. Fred snorted loudly, and he was pleased to see that along with regaining the healthy color to her face, Hermione was now grinning.
"There, you see?" He grinned back smugly. "You are having fun."
Hermione shrugged indecisively, but she was still smiling. Behind her, Ron was brushing cauldron cake off his shirt and muttering, "Where the bloody hell did they get all this food?"
Fred was just about to open his mouth and suggest to Hermione that they mount some sort of surprise attack on Ron when a scream pierced the air. Hermione's head snapped to stare, terrified, at the maze, and all those engaged in the food fight froze, most of them in mid throw.
An uneasy silence fell over the arena as everyone turned to look at the massive green hedge that had previously been so uninteresting. Ginny sat down abruptly and took Hermione's hand.
"It's okay," she said shakily. "That was a girl screaming. That wasn't Harry."
Hermione's other hand covered her mouth, and she was again shaking her head, hysterically this time.
"It doesn't matter," she said, her face returning to a deathly pale. "It's dangerous, someone got hurt, I knew this would happen..."
A shower of red sparks appeared high in the sky, marking the spot where a champion had fallen.
"It's alright," Fred muttered absentmindedly, gazing grimly at the maze. "They're going to get them now..."
The search party returned a few minutes later, and everyone in front of them stood up to get a better view. Fred and George got up on the bleachers, craning their necks to see who had returned.
"It's Fleur," Fred said, looking back down at Hermione, Ginny, and Ron, who was looking a little sick. "She's fine, she just looks shaken up... they're taking her to Madam Pomfrey..."
"Bloody hell!" George exclaimed in surprise. "They've got Krum, too! Blimey, that just leaves Harry and Cedric!"
Fred looked back over the heads of the spectators and, sure enough, Viktor Krum was stumbling vacantly towards the hospital tent. Fred caught a glimpse of Dumbledore, who was watching the proceedings with an almost angry look on his face.
The rest of the onlookers seemed to have realized that the final two champions left standing were Hogwarts students, for as it became clear that Fleur and Krum were not seriously injured, a cheer sounded from the Gryffindor section of the stands, apparently instigated by Lee Jordan.
"YES!!" Lee bellowed, flourishing a red and gold banner and pumping his fist in the air. "GO HARRY!" A loud roar emanated from the crowd around him, quickly combated by boos from the Slytherins, and some of the Hufflepuffs.
Fred sat down uneasily, thinking of Dumbledore's expression. As the others around them took their seats, he could see a group of teachers conversing agitatedly, Professor McGonagall and Madam Maxime included. Professor Moody, however, was eyeing the maze quite complacently.
"It's a Hogwarts champion now, either way," George said, rubbing his hands together. This didn't seem to reassure Hermione, who was still gripping her face; her fingernails looked to be digging into her skin. George, along with the majority of the other students, didn't seem to have noticed the worry of the teachers.
Something about all of this was causing Fred's stomach to twist uncomfortably. He had a rather ominous feeling; something bad seemed destined to happen...
It was a while before something did, and when it happened, it was so sudden that there was a moment where no one noticed. Chatter had broken out among the students again, but Fred had been keeping his eye on the section where the staff was sitting. Fleur and Krum had now joined them, looking haggard and dirty, wrapped in cloaks. The arena was loud and distracting, and if Fred hadn't been looking in that direction, he might have missed it.
There was a flash of light, brilliant, white and fleeting, and Fred jerked his head to stare at the middle of the field—
Harry Potter slammed to the ground in the booming stadium, one hand gripping a large object Fred couldn't make out, the other the Triwizard Cup. There was a moment of silence before everyone became aware, and then...
The stadium exploded, the band began playing, the students stood up. Ron and Ginny and George were cheering, and Hermione was sobbing, tears of happiness running down her face, and Fred chose this moment to pull her into a bone-crushing hug, his stomach swooping when she returned it with equal gusto. Fred had never felt so happy in his life—Harry had just won the Triwizard Tournament, and he was holding Hermione Granger in his arms...
They were shoving their way past the other students, halfway down the bleacher stairs when Fleur screamed.
The band stopped playing, the trumpet trailing off in a would-be comedic sort of way. Smiles faded from faces to be replaced with confusion, and Hermione stopped dead, Fred running into her from behind.
And everything, in a split second, changed.
A circle of people had surrounded Harry—Dumbledore, Fudge, McGonagall—and he was yelling something, clutching something fiercely.
"He's back!" Harry sobbed. "Voldemort's back!"
Fred's heart seemed to have stopped beating. Surely he had heard that wrong... but then there was Fudge's voice, low, but somehow carrying.
"Everyone get back!" He pushed his way out of the circle. "A boy's just been killed."
Hermione took a stumbling step backwards, her back connecting with Fred's chest solidly as Cedric Diggory's lifeless body appeared between the figures standing around Harry. Dumbledore was kneeling beside him, trying to make Harry let go but Harry wouldn't let go... Cho stood on the field, crying, her hands covering her mouth...
"Let me through!" Came an anguished yell, and Cedric's father, Amos Diggory, shoved his way through the crowd towards Cedric's prone form. "That's my boy, that's my son!"
Harry was still crying but Moody was lifting him up, pulling him away... someone was clinging to Fred's shirt, someone was burying their face in his chest...
Fred looked down, in a kind of trance. Hermione had turned and fisted her hands in his shirt, her tears already soaking through...
Fred wrapped his arms around Hermione, drawing her closer to him, buried his face in her hair, and started to cry.
Three Years Later.
Albus Dumbledore knew he was just a portrait.
He knew he was just the remnants of a long gone wizard—but a rather clever one, and he had been able to retain some of his intelligence. He had known to stay oddly quiet as the Death Eaters removed him from the wall in the Headmaster's office, shortly after he had spoken with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He had known to keep still, never wavering from his amused smile or signature twinkling eyes behind his half-moon spectacles.
There were more important things at work now, and it was the least of everyone's worries if Minerva McGonagall noticed his likeness missing from her new office (and he had no doubt that she would become the new Headmistress of Hogwarts... he was, after all, quite clever). No, right now what mattered was the plan of one Cobra Riddle, and just what part her two prisoners played in it.
Dumbledore looked down at the room from his place, hanging on the wall. It very much resembled a prison. There were two cells, both separated from the rest of the room by wrought iron bars reaching from floor to ceiling. One of the occupants hardly ever left his bed. He had never spoken, just moved about on occasion, looking like a pile of dirty rags. When he had first seen Dumbledore's portrait, a spark of recognition had flickered in his eyes, but Dumbledore thought it would be wise to stay frozen... he had no intention of speaking to this man—not just yet.
It was the occupant of the other cell that interested Dumbledore. Dumbledore's picture, still in its golden frame, hung just over the bed, and he found himself staring quite often at the comatose figure that lay below him. The boy hadn't moved since the Death Eaters had brought him to Malfoy Manor, but a different Death Eater had come in to check on him every day.
Dumbledore, clever as he was, as much intelligence as he had retained, was not quite sure at present just what Cobra Riddle had in mind for these two. He had only learned one thing during his stay at the Manor, and it was something that had surprised him—and he was not an easy man to surprise.
Just recently, Albus Dumbledore had come to the conclusion that Cobra Riddle was Lord Voldemort's daughter.
This had bothered him immensely. He had first thought of Harry, of what this would mean for the boy who had just triumphed over so much. But soon he began to focus on the boy below him. There was not much Dumbledore could do, being a portrait, to assist anyone, except to give advice.
And when the boy woke, nearly two days since the Battle at Hogwarts, that was exactly what Dumbledore did.
Fred Weasley was having a very odd dream.
It had all started at the battle, because he couldn't be sure, really, if that was a dream or if it wasn't. Fred had been laughing at Percy's jibes at the Minister (You-Know-Who's lackey, more like). Then, it seemed, he had switched abruptly to dreamland with what felt like a sharp blow to the head. And suddenly, there were something like eighteen thousand Arnold the Pygmy Puffs dancing around Harry's ankles as he held the Quidditch cup aloft, saying, "I've done it, I've won!" And Fred remembered feeling very happy that the team had won, only he hadn't helped them because he had been banned from the game for life by a gigantic pink toad only minutes earlier, but he forgot that quite suddenly because Hermione was sashaying over to him, singing "A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love".
And then he woke up.
The first thing that greeted him was a searing pain in his chest. His eyes had snapped open in shock; he hadn't remembered that happening... and he was suddenly looking up at a gloomy stone ceiling in a room lit only by candlelight.
He hadn't remembered being brought here, either.
He sat up quickly, immediately regretting it. Apparently his chest wasn't the only part of him that had been hurt—his hand felt his forehead gingerly and felt a bandage wrapped around his head. Putting his face in his hands, Fred closed his eyes. What was going on?
The Battle at Hogwarts... that was the last thing he remembered. He was sure now that it wasn't a dream. Percy had really been dueling Thicknesse, and then he must really have been hit on the head...
Someone cleared their throat nearby. Fred's hands flew from his face as he jumped, spinning to look at the origin of the sound... the wall?
Then his eyes traveled upward, and he was forced to do a double-take.
Albus Dumbledore's comfortably smiling face looked back at him from behind his glinting spectacles, the tips of his fingers placed carefully together.
"Hello, Fred," he said.
Fred knew the appropriate response to this statement, but couldn't seem to make the words come out of his mouth. He stared at Dumbledore with an expression of increasing bewilderment. Dumbledore—or, that is to say, Dumbledore's portrait—looked at him with mere amusement.
"It's quite alright, Fred," he said reassuringly. "Your reaction is understandable. You have, of course, not seen me since long before my death."
Fred opened and closed his mouth several times, fancying he looked a bit like a goldfish. Dumbledore smiled kindly.
"But surely," he continued, "You noticed the portraits of all the other Hogwarts Headmasters and Headmistresses when you visited my office in your seventh year. You were preoccupied, perhaps, with the news of your father's injury, but am I right in assuming that you can recall them now?"
Fred felt himself nod.
"Good," Dumbledore said. "Every Headmaster or Headmistress has a portrait of them hung in the office after they die. Mine was simply..." he paused, and Fred thought he saw the shadow of a smirk on the older man's face. "...stolen." He finished.
"Sir..." Fred heard himself croak.
"Ah!" Cried Dumbledore happily, his eyes twinkling. "You have regained the ability to speak! You wish, perhaps, to know where you are and why you are here?"
Fred nodded again, warily. He had forgotten Dumbledore's uncanny gift of practically reading minds.
"As far as I have surmised," Dumbledore was saying, "We are in Malfoy Manor. In the depths of the Manor, I expect."
Fred drew in a sharp breath, looking around. "Why?" he managed.
"That is unclear at this present moment." Dumbledore said wisely. "I'm afraid I haven't a clue why you or I were brought here after the Battle at Hogwarts. You were injured when they brought you in," he gestured towards Fred's bandaged head, "and you didn't wake for two days."
Fred stared at Dumbledore, still feeling unable to form a complete sentence. Everything seemed to be happening at once, and a whirlwind of thoughts was swirling around in his mind, making him dizzy... why was he in Malfoy Manor? Why had the Death Eaters brought him here?
And then, quite suddenly, he started, realizing what he should have asked ages ago, when he had first woken up.
"Did he do it?" He turned to Dumbledore, surprised at how quickly the words came out of his mouth, and how excited he sounded. "Harry... did he do it? Did he kill You-Know-Who?"
Dumbledore scrutinized Fred for a moment, his face impassive. Then he said, "Yes."
Fred let out a loud, relieved laugh. It was over, You-Know-Who was gone... things could go back to being normal...
His smile suddenly faded. He frowned.
"I don't understand," He muttered, not really to Dumbledore in particular. "What the hell am I doing here? If You-Know-Who is finished, why are there still Death Eaters?"
"Some have temporarily evaded capture," Dumbledore replied quietly. "They've rallied under someone else."
"Who?" Fred narrowed his eyes, suspecting Lucius Malfoy.
"Voldemort's daughter." Dumbledore said gravely. "Cobra Riddle."
All the breath seemed to leave Fred's body and he stared at Dumbledore stupidly. Voldemort's daughter... since when did Voldemort have a daughter?
"My thoughts exactly," Dumbledore nodded, seeming to read Fred's mind again. The older man was staring at him piercingly, as if he expected him to say something, but Fred had found himself once again incapable of speech. He turned away, frustrated. Again and again, the same question kept materializing in his throbbing head—what did any of this have to do with him?
Fred stared across the room at what looked to be a dirty pile of rags heaped on a bed in the other cell. A rather terrible realization had just struck him, but he couldn't bring himself to ask Dumbledore. He had been hurt in the Battle at Hogwarts. But who, if anyone, had been killed?
Was Ron, who always stayed by Harry's side, always staring danger in the face, dead? Was, he thought with a lurch in his stomach, Hermione? George, and his parents, and Ginny, and Bill, and Fleur, and Percy... were they alright?
Rather suddenly, Fred's eyes widened. The pile of rags in the other cell had moved, shifting until they lifted off the bed, and Fred realized with shock that he had not been staring at a heap of dirty laundry, but at a person.
But his surprise at discovering that he was sharing this jail with another prisoner was nothing compared to the astonishment he felt when the figure turned around. Rufus Scrimgeour, wizened and weary-looking, stared back at him blearily through tired eyes.
"Minister?!" Fred asked incredulously.
Scrimgeour didn't say anything, but simply looked at Fred with an odd expression on his face before turning away. This didn't really affect Fred, as he was too shocked to really feel anything. He turned back to Dumbledore, bewilderment written in his features.
"What's he doing here?" Fred blurted out in a panicky voice. "He's supposed to be dead, why isn't he dead?"
"I haven't the foggiest," said Dumbledore mildly. But Fred suspected, as always, that the former headmaster was withholding valuable information. Fred buried his face in his hands for the second time, rubbing at his eyes until he saw spots.
"I know it's difficult," Dumbledore said in an infuriatingly calm voice, "not to know what is going on—"
"Who's dead?" Fred said sharply, suddenly. "Who died?"
"I don't know." Dumbledore said quietly. Fred's frustration bubbled up again. He knew somewhere inside him that none of this was Dumbledore's fault. After all, he was just a portrait, just a shadow of the fantastical man he had once been. But there were so many things that didn't make sense, all of them whirling around in Fred's head at a dizzying speed. And everywhere he turned, he just found more questions lying in wait.
He heard a sudden click and his head snapped up, staring at the bolt of the door, which had just jerked upwards. Someone was entering the room. In the other cell, Scrimgeour was sitting once again on his bed, but his back was rigid and his expression alert.
A woman slid into the room. She was short and slight, with jet black hair that seemed to disappear into the gloom behind her. Her dark eyes flashed unusually in the light from the candles in brackets on the wall.
"Oh," she said, in a playful voice unsuited for her age, "You're awake." She stared at Fred, and he felt a bit unnerved. He wanted to ask her what he was doing here, but again he found that nothing would come out of his mouth.
"I'm Cobra," she said personably. Fred stared at her in astonishment... here was Voldemort's daughter, acting perfectly lovely.
"But I'm sure Dumbledore already told you everything he knows," she continued. "You probably have a few questions, but I'm really not in the mood to answer them right now." She waved her hand at him flippantly, while at the same time pulling a set of keys from the folds of her ragged skirt. She was starting to remind Fred horribly of Bellatrix Lestrange and her insane mannerisms, and he couldn't help but shrink back as she inserted an iron key into the lock on his cell.
"Right now, we're a bit busy." She was saying. "So you're going to come along with me and help me with a teensy, little something."
She was speaking to him as if to a five year old, but there was something menacing in her words. As she stepped into the cell, Fred pressed his back against the wall, cornered, and she laughed derisively.
"Don't be scared," she commanded in a sugary voice that was actually rather frightening. Her hand, thin and adorned with jeweled rings, gripped his upper arm fiercely, her long nails digging into Fred's skin through the fabric of his t-shirt. She smiled up at him, and he was suddenly aware that her wand was pointing straight at his aching chest. "Don't worry," she cooed.
"It'll only hurt for a moment."
end chapter three.