Disclaimer: Most regrettably, I do not own Harry Potter or any of its associated characters. JK Rowling has that pleasure.
A/N: I've often wondered what happened beyond Harry's perspective on the night he returned, Cedric Diggory's dead body in tow. Most especially, how did his teachers- primarily Dumbledore- react? All we got was a blurred version from a barely conscious Harry, and I'm left wanting. Therefore, why not write it myself? I mean, I'm perfectly capable :-D Sooo, here's my creative take on the events that transpired after the Third Task, from Dumbledore's point of view. Perhaps a little more dramatic than it needs to be, but whatever. Author's license :-) Snape and McGonagall pop their heads in too, as you recall from the impostor Moody rescue. Well, enjoy the read!
Note: This is all rooted in canon fact, not film. I took every detail from the book, then spun fiction where it was needed. It is a two-part one shot.
Wolf in Friend's Clothing
Part 1: "Of Purgatory and Pestiferous Forebodings"
Albus Dumbledore was a man who prided himself in his mastery of emotions and prestigious skill at calm, rational thought. Few people could outmatch his proficiency at solving puzzles, or his ability to see people for who they really were. He could count on one hand the number of times he'd been successfully tricked. And manipulated, well, that occurred even less. Rare was the Headmaster found truly frightened, truly surprised or truly angered past his placid exterior.
But apparently, this night seemed bound and determined to shake all the Greatest Wizard of the Age's pre-conceived notions. And, it was dead set on tacking up one more finger in the 'I, Albus Dumbledore-have-been-fooled' tally.
But these revelations didn't, of course, all flood in at once. No, fate was cruel in that had it decided to draw out the nightmare; savor it. Albus still cringed when remembering how slow discovery had been, and how very nearly he had lost one of his beloved students to ruddy Time in the process.
The evening had started out like any other.
Well, if you disregarded the fact that the Triwizard Tournament was coming to a head, with the Third Task about to commence. The air had been utterly ensconced in excitement, the crowds cheering on their respective preferences for winner. Ludo Bagman had sent off the four young champions into the dark and dangerous maze, currently inhabiting the enlarged Quidditch field. Dumbledore had been seated with the judges, watching intently from his section in the stands as Harry Potter joined Cedric Diggory at the entrance. Mere moments later, they were gone, lost to the sight of the crowd by towering viridian hedges.
It was the last time anyone had heard of or seen the two boys for hours, and frankly, the head of Hogwarts was worried. Almost half an hour in, Fleur Delacour had been put out of the running by a Stunning Curse. Then, maybe twenty more minutes in, Viktor Krum suffered the same fate, albeit his case was... stranger, to say the least. There had been traces of a bewitchment gone afoul, or so Madam Pomfrey claimed. Albus Dumbledore knew better than to doubt her diagnosis, but the news had left him rattled. Surely nothing in the maze had caused these reactions? He knew every obstacle that had been placed, and not one of them warranted such ill effect on the champions.
No, Albus thought concernedly, these 'misfortunes' were deliberate. But a bewitchment spell? That was hardly magic even a Seventh Year would have known, much less children versed in Light Magic...
Albus Dumbledore could not help but feel that something was very, very wrong. He could not shake off the foreboding feeling subsisting in the pit of his stomach, some warning... of terrors, yet to come... or maybe already happening? The old mage frowned, fingering his wand unconsciously, letting his wizened appendages obtain some form of reassurance from the solidity and power the stick emanated. If plans ran amuck, at least he would be there. If worst came to worst, he would protect his students from whatever evils tonight unleashed.
If only it had been that easy...
Five more minutes went by, agonizingly and torturously slow. Albus whiled away what he dubbed 'Purgatory' with examining both the crowd and the edge of the maze. In regards to the former, everyone looked about as antsy as he felt, though for significantly different reasons. Most of the student population, he appraised, was tired and cold. No doubt delightful fantasies about their warm Dormitories filled their minds, trying to coax and tempt with images of roaring fires and cozy beds. Albus sighed, still searching the throng with his infallibly astute blue eyes...
Ah. There, at least, was a small group of people whose emotions mirrored his own; who were not just antsy because of simple impatience. Albus smiled at the cluster of red-heads with one brunette tucked safely in their midst, holding the hand of one Ronald Weasley. The blushing countenance that Fourth Year wore made Dumbledore want to laugh, if it weren't for the sobering fact that Harry and Cedric still had not returned.
Which brought his eyes back to the maze, and those pale-faced teachers patrolling it. Surely one of them had reached the Cup by now? McGonagall glanced up at the Headmaster just before pacing the perimeter once more, the red star planted on her black witch's hat illuminated eerily by moonlight. Albus could see her growing edgier with still no sign of their Hogwarts boys, and knew her fear was well-founded. Albus knew they both couldn't help but remember how young Harry was compared to Cedric... how, despite everyone's brave face, the teachers thought some plot was afoot to undermine Harry's safety... or worse, bring about his demise. The child's name coming out of the Goblet of Fire had been no good omen, that was for sure. Damn binding magical contracts!
Albus remembered how sick and uneasy he'd felt after reading aloud Harry's flame-borne name. He'd tried- unsuccessfully- to call off the tournament, but the Ministry had been relentless, throwing his own words from earlier back into the Headmaster's face.
"It's all about inter-continental unity, Albus," Fudge had said. "Those alliances are critical. We call off the tournament now, and the Heads will be furious! I know Igor of all people is itching to see Krum bring home the glory, and Olympe's no different with her champion."
"There're all vying to best each other, Cornelius!" Albus had exclaimed in response, irate. He checked his tone after that, reigning in his exasperation until only forced serenity remained. "I fear letting the tournament continue will only endanger Harry's life, while helping to exacerbate the prejudices that we are trying so hard to fight. Surely you must see the veracity of my words, Minister."
But he hadn't, and Harry was still competing in this stupid bid for glory.
Another five minutes passed, but Albus could've sworn it was thirty. He observed a couple students sneak away to return to the castle, but made no move to stop them. Then Alastor Moody rounded the maze. It was the expression on his scarred visage that drew Albus' attention. The auror looked... gleeful, almost. But then Dumbledore thought fatigue was flirting with his mind, because the wooden legged one had schooled his features so fast that joy could not have resided there. At least, that was what Albus hoped, if one were to delve into the recesses of his heart. Because his friend shouldn't be happy about anything, right now. Illusion of the moonlight, no doubt.
Yes, that was it. It was getting late; people were growing weary of waiting...
Two more minutes fled, and Albus wondered,
Was Harry stubborn enough to refuse aid? Perhaps he (or both of them, though Albus knew Cedric well enough that he didn't think it pertained to the Hufflepuff) was lying injured and prone, but refused to send up red sparks because he'd labelled that a manifestation of weakness?
Oh, if only that were the case...
Another minute, then-
Harry Potter appeared out of thin air, clutching Cedric Diggory in one hand and the Triwizard Cup in the other. He landed face-first into the ground, and did not move. Neither did Cedric.
The world as Albus Dumbledore knew it came crashing down, erupting into tiny pieces as quickly as the crowd had jumped to its feet...
But no no no no no something was not right, why was Harry so still? And Cedric.. Cedric looked so frighteningly, ghostly pallid... This was not what was supposed to happen; the champion who touched the Cup was supposed to trigger the end of the maze enchantment, not be whisked back to the beginning like this...
Then Albus realized the crowd was not cheering, but screaming. And a stampede was forming, as the whole Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang body began racing for the Boy-Who-Lived and his fallen comrade. Somehow, by a sheer combination of will and wild magic, Albus arrived there first, heart palpitating painfully. His countenance blanched when he got to the boys, because neither had twitched a single muscle and no no no no no they can't be... oh Harry... not dead not dead... please not dead...
He crouched and seized Harry perhaps a little too roughly in his cold, dreading haste, shouting, "Harry! Harry!" while turning the boy over.
And then Harry opened his eyes, and the breath Albus didn't know he'd been refusing his body returned. Thank Merlin, he's alive! But yet again, there was a nagging sense in Dumbledore that something was still wrong, oh so wrong... Harry didn't seem to be able to focus on him; the emerald orbs so usually full of blithe exuberance were distant; glazed; foggy...
Albus wanted to shoo the dark crowd pressing in on them away, but then Harry did something that interrupted this desire. He let go of the Cup, and instead clutched at the Headmaster's wrist like it was his lifeline in a turbulent storm.
Then Harry whispered five little words, clipped in his obvious illness, that would change everyone's lives forever.
"He's back... he's back. Voldemort."
Albus opened his mouth, horrified at the ramifications and what Harry meant... the child hadn't... Merlin, he hadn't been there... not forced to face Voldemort again, not... every thought died as Dumbledore watched Harry's vision swim in and out, because he knew the truth was right before his eyes, so achingly obvious...
Harry wasn't in shock because of the Third Task's maze. Harry wasn't wounded and winded simply because of rough encounters with Skrewts and boggarts. Harry wasn't here because of some miracle mistake in the Cup's modifications.
It was a Portkey. It had to be! Then that meant... that someone... had betrayed them; bested Albus Dumbledore and pulled the wool over the Greatest Wizard of the Age... Who could have-?
And Cedric. Albus knew all too well what Avada Kedavra did to its victims. Dear God, Cedric-
"What's going on? What's happened?"
Cornelius Fudge suddenly swooped out of the scared, chattering onlookers. His face was stark white and appalled as he gazed down at Harry and Cedric, Harry still holding Albus' wrist- but not for long. It soon slipped, weak, and Dumbledore began seriously fearing for the fourteen year old's health. The Minister came to the same conclusion Dumbledore had, albeit he decided to announce it to the world, panic be damned.
"My God- Diggory! Dumbledore- he's dead!"
The words were repeated, and the shadowy individuals pushing in on them began raising- screeching- crying the Hufflepuff's fate into the night: "He's dead!" "He's dead!" "Cedric Diggory! Dead!" Sobbing sounded in a din, and voices, passing on the news... everywhere...
"Harry, let go of him," Fudge told Harry, as if the champion was stultified. He began attempting to pry the golden child's fingers from Cedric's limp form when Harry didn't respond. However, Harry wouldn't let go, instead re-doubling his grip to ward off the efforts of the Minister. Albus leant down closer, his wrinkled, bearded visage only inches from Harry's own.
"Harry, you can't help him now. It's over. Let go."
The gentle order seemed to stimulate Harry, and he began explaining; pleading.
"He wanted me to bring him back," the teen muttered, and Albus could tell this was very important to him. "He wanted me to bring him back to his parents..."
But Harry's death-grip was loosening and slowly, oh so slowly, he began releasing Cedric. Dumbledore began coaxing him on softly- "That's right, Harry... just let go now..."
Harry finally surrendered Cedric, and Albus bent down, belying his old age in a show of extraordinary strength. He gripped Harry under the armpits, like one would to a small child, and carefully raised the Boy-Who-Lived (yet again, he suspected wryly) from his spread-eagle position on the ground. Gently, he eased him onto his feet. Unfortunately, Harry seemed to favor one leg over the other and was only half-cogent. People jostled around them, fighting to get in closer propinquity with the quartet, demanding "What happened?" "What's wrong with him?" and again, "Diggory's dead!" Harry wasn't faring too well; he swayed, unable to support his own weight. A moment later, Harry'd sunk back to the ground in a strange sit, back drooping forward like he was going to faint.
"He'll need to go to the hospital wing!" Fudge was saying loudly. "He's ill, he's injured-"
Albus agreed, fully aware that Harry needed medical attention and slightly desperate to get it for the child. He was about to ask someone to look for Pomfrey, afraid to leave Harry, when Fudge continued shakily,
"Dumbledore, Diggory's parents, they're here, they're in the stands..."
Moody seemed to appear out of nowhere; much like Harry had only minutes- or was it seconds? Albus couldn't tell; it was all a blur- before. "I'll take Harry, Dumbledore, I'll take him-"
It was slightly odd to hear Alastor call Harry by his first and not his surname, as was the auror's wont with anyone... "No, I would prefer-"
Fudge interrupted, panicking: "Dumbledore, Amos Diggory's running... he's coming over... Don't you think you should tell him- before he sees-?" Cornelius started practically dragging Dumbledore away by the arm, white all over and obviously unsure how to the handle the situation. And Albus, knowing it was his duty to inform Amos before he saw his dead son, only had time to impart forcefully,
"Harry, stay here-"
Before he was out of the boy's sight. And feeling very, very much discomfited by that fact.
The sickening foreboding in the pit of Albus' stomach did not go away like he thought it would once Harry was safe at Hogwarts.
It only got worse.
A/N: Ahahahaha, cliffy! But obviously, everyone knows what's gonna happen :-D Not so surprising there... hope you all enjoyed it and PLEASE REVIEW! Stay tuned for the conclusion in Part 2, where OMG! Moody's a Death Eater!? Who'da thunked it?