Chapter 17 is amazing because of the one and only Jfvonjr
The tumultuous storm clouds enveloping the wizard prison Azkaban gave no hint as to whether it was day or night. For the prisoners locked away, this distinction was of no consequence; time only prolonged their agonizing existence among the living. Trapped within their own minds, the imprisoned often prayed for their time to end and for release into peaceful oblivion.
Dementors silently patrolled the prison's decaying corridors, the quiet interrupted only by their raspy breathing and the occasional whimper from a human occupant. Their innate ability to devour happy emotion and leave behind only despair made them the perfect choice to guard Azkaban; they were able to easily subdue the prison population that had neither the desire nor the will to fight.
Albus Dumbledore, the former Headmaster of Hogwarts, sat obscured by shadows in the far corner of his dank, musty cell. The stark features of his once kind face were suddenly brought into sharp relief by a bolt of lightning outside his window. His dull, listless eyes opened wide and his heartbeat began to quicken. He could feel them approaching.
Telltale signs of their near arrival began to manifest themselves: numbing cold and blanketing darkness. Dumbledore could feel the loss of physical sensation as the Dementors began to gorge on his emotions. He trembled uncontrollably and cried out as they forced him into his most painful memories.
He found himself sitting in front of the Mirror of Erised gazing at his deepest desire: his family, alive, well and reconciled to him. His eyes moved across the reflection until he reached her eyes. He felt his eyes moisten as he stared at the sweet visage of his sister Ariana. She moved closer after a few moments, tears trickling down her cheeks.
"Why did you let me die Albus? You were my oldest brother. You were supposed to protect me always. I trusted and loved you … but you never loved me."
"No, my pretty Ariana, you are wrong. I realize that I was never as close to you as Aberforth, but I have always loved both of you. That is one of the many reasons I took responsibility for you after our mother's unfortunate death."
"Don't lie to me Albus ... you blamed me for her death. And then you resented me because you had to abandon your ambitious plans to care for me."
"No Ariana, that is not true. Please believe me. I – I never blamed you … ne – never resented you."
"OH NO? Then why did you kill me when you were dueling with Aberforth and Gellert Grindelwald? I was only trying to help you … and you killed me … So, tell me Albus, was I the first one to die for the 'Greater Good'?"
"No, no Ariana … I – that was not – I – I begged Gellert to hurt me instead of you and Aberforth … but, he wouldn't listen to me and then … and then ... you died … Oh Merlin, I am so sorry Ariana that I could not protect you."
Dumbledore dropped his head into his hands and started sobbing uncontrollably. She was right. He did resent having to take care of her and Aberforth. He never intended for her to be harmed but his ambitions with Gellert cost her dearly after he put her in death's way.
"Look at me now big brother! Look at what I became because of you."
Fearfully, Dumbledore lifted his eyes back to the mirror and saw the rotting corpse of his sister staring back at him.
"NOOOO! NOOOO! Please stop! Pl – Please … please … stop Ariana. I beg you."
Meanwhile, back in the real world, there was no one to hear the sorrowful pleas of Albus Dumbledore and no one to save him from his guilty conscience.
Harry, Hermione and Neville sat together in the Great Hall eagerly awaiting the champion selections for the Triwizard Tournament. The excited buzz in the Hall died away as Headmistress McGonagall got to her feet.
"May I have everyone's attention please?" she waited for total silence before continuing. "It appears that the goblet is ready to make its decision. If your name is called as one of the selected champions, I would ask that you come forward, pass along the staff table and exit through the door behind the table into the next chamber where you will receive your first instructions."
She swept her wand elegantly across the Hall's expansive breadth, extinguishing all the candles along the walls. The Goblet of Fire now shone more brightly than anything else in the whole Hall.
"Oh I hope he doesn't get picked," Harry heard a nervous voice whisper.
He turned to see Rosabella looking very nervous. "Why?"
She looked at him whilst biting her lip. "Ced seems to think that Uncle Amos is somehow disappointed with him and wants him to achieve 'eternal glory' while he's here at Hogwarts. Whether he does or doesn't, I don't think this is the way to accomplish it. Merlin Harry, he could die!"
She started to wring her hands feverishly as all eyes were intensely focused on the glacial blue flames that flickered at the goblet edges. Suddenly, sparks began to fly from it and just as the flames turned red, a jet of fire shot out of the goblet and a bit of burnt parchment was thrown into the air.
McGonagall caught the parchment as it wafted downwards. Looking towards the Slytherin table she said in a strong, clear voice, "The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum."
A storm of applause and cheers followed the Quidditch star as he slouched passed the staff table and exited into the adjoining chamber. Quiet once again took hold of the Hall as everyone turned their attention back to the goblet. Seconds later, it turned red once more and a second piece of parchment shot out of it.
"The champion for Beauxbatons," said McGonagall, "is Fleur Delacour!"
Amid another round of applause, Fleur stood from her seat and gracefully swept up between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables. Harry and Hermione smiled broadly at Rosabella as their new friend yelled out, "Looking good Fleur! You go girl!"
As the Beauxbatons champion disappeared into the side chamber, the Great Hall began to fill with anticipation as everyone held their breath waiting for the selection of the Hogwarts champion. Within a few moments, the flames turned scarlet once more; McGonagall caught the third piece of parchment shot out from the goblet and called out, "The Hogwarts champion is Cedric Diggory!"
The Hufflepuff table erupted with screams and wild cheers. Harry, Hermione, Neville and Rosabella joined the other Hogwarts students clapping and stamping their feet as Cedric made his way past them, grinning broadly, and heading off toward the chamber behind the teachers' table. After several more minutes of applause and the occasional "Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!" shouted by Rosabella, McGonagall could finally make herself heard again.
"Excellent!" McGonagall called happily as at last the uproar died down. "Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real –"
But she abruptly broke off her speech, distracted by the goblet flames that were burning deep red once more. A long flame shot suddenly into the air and McGonagall quickly snatched the parchment spat out of the goblet. She stared at the written name in disbelief. Finally, she cleared her throat and read out, "Ha – Harry Potter."
After an excruciatingly long, silent pause, Hermione gave Harry's hand a reassuring squeeze as she nudged him towards the Headmistress. Even though this had happened to him in the previous timeline, Harry was still slightly unnerved by the unfolding scene. There was no applause as he made his way past the house tables. Instead, he felt the disapproving stares of his fellow students.
Curious looks from Fleur, Viktor and Cedric greeted Harry as he entered the chamber. Harry returned an awkward smile as he stumbled over to the fireplace in the center of the room. Moments later, Headmistress McGonagall came down the steps into the room quietly arguing with the Highmaster Karkaroff. They were followed closely by Madame Maxime and Professor Snape.
McGonagall approached Harry deliberately and in her most stern voice asked, "Mr. Potter, why did you put your name in the goblet? How did you get past the age line? I need your answers now."
Harry suppressed the desire to roll his eyes. "I did not put my name in the goblet, Headmistress. In fact, I never once stepped into the room where the Goblet of Fire was staged, so I never had to make an attempt to cross the age line."
She sighed. "I believe you Mr. Potter, but unfortunately you are now – thanks to the goblet's selection – magically bound to compete in the tournament. Rest assured though, I will be looking into this matter further to uncover who submitted your name and why."
Snape raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "Unless Potter has grown a brain and is using his newly acquired knowledge to once again flaunt his dislike for rules, it would appear that someone is trying once more to rid the magical world of its 'chosen one'."
"Ahhhh," said Harry in a mocking voice just as Professor Moody crept into the room, "the number of people that try to kill me: never ending. In fact, based on previous incidents," he turned to glare at the fake ex-Auror, "at least two of you in this room will try to harm me in some way or another before the end of the school year."
Only the sounds of popping embers in the fireplace could be heard as everyone in the room froze and stared at him incredulously, their mouths agape.
"Statistically speaking, of course," Harry smirked.
Later that night, Hermione found Harry sitting by himself in the Gryffindor common room. He was staring, eyes unfocused, into the fire crackling in the fireplace. She sat down next to him and felt her breath hitch from the reflection of flames dancing on the surface of his brilliant green eyes. After a few moments, she quietly pulled his hand to her and intertwined her fingers with his. Feeling the sudden rush of warmth, Harry looked up to see the tempered smile of his best friend. He smiled sheepishly before turning his gaze back to the fire.
"I see by the look on your face that you weren't able to get out of the tournament?" Although it came out as a question, both of them knew it was a statement.
"McGonagall said I was magically bound to compete –"
"I know Harry."
"What? But how did –"
"Harry, I - I went…" Hermione hesitated. She was worried that he might be embarrassed by what she had uncovered in the library about the tournament. Had she overstepped their friendship?
Sensing her uncertainty, Harry reached up with his free hand and tenderly caressed her cheek. "'Mione, please understand, I trust you with my life. You can always tell me anything about everything … And, I can tell by the way you're biting your lower lip right now that you have something important to tell me."
After letting out a small laugh, Hermione turned serious and said, "I went to the library after you were selected champion. I quickly researched all the tomes on Wizarding Law I could find. But Harry, I wasn't able to find anything not even a small loophole that would allow you to get out of the tournament without severe consequences … even stripping you of your magical powers. I'm sorry Harry … I'm sorry I couldn't find anything useful –"
"Shh … it's okay 'Mione. At least now I know that there isn't anything I can do legally. And, it's because of your tireless effort and brilliant mind that I know ... thank you."
Smiling slightly as she wiped away a tear, Hermione asked, "Well, you know what this means, don't you?" Harry looked up at her. "You have to win Harry ... You have to win it for yourself. Just promise me you'll not get too badly hurt? I like you much better alive than dead."
Harry grinned. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all.
The next day Neville and Luna caught up with Harry. They were both sure that someone must be after him. Luna, in her dreamy voice, even suggested that it might be Nargles. Harry smiled at his blonde friend as he mentally dismissed her suggestion about the seemingly non-existent creatures.
A short time later they were joined by Draco and Blaise. Though Draco scowled and whined a bit about how it was so unfair that Harry got selected champion, they both believed he didn't put his name in the Goblet of Fire, that it wasn't his fault.
But then there was Rosabella … Although she was still friendly with Hermione, she refused to acknowledge Harry, thinking that he had cheated Cedric (and by extension Hufflepuff) of well deserved recognition. He even saw her having a row with Draco which reminded him of catching the future Draco and his wife fighting. His wife ended up walking out of their marriage when his son was only four years old. He remembered it well …
"No! Merlin, Draco!" a woman yelled. Harry moved closer to the door that was slightly ajar and then peeked inside.
Draco was looking at his wife, her back was to Harry.
"You think you're all that and a cup of tea, huh, Draco? Well, you and your stupid, little father can go fight a Hungarian Horntail without magic for all I care! I'm leaving and you can't tell me otherwise!"
"Now come on –" Draco said, trying to get his wife to lower her voice as their son slept in room close by. "Shh!"
"Don't you dare tell me to be quiet Draco Malfoy! I can't even remember why we got together in the beginning. All you care about anymore is your precious Lord. Don't you remember what went wrong last time with Voldemort?"
Many could now say the former Dark Lord's name, as Harry's was now the new name to fear.
"Can't you see him for what he really is Draco? He's a love-struck school boy that's crying because his little 'toy' is broken and got thrown away."
"You know very well she died for us … for the other muggle-borns like herself ... for everything she believed in," drawled Draco in a condescending voice.
"I know very well what she died for Draco. I was her friend, remember?" Her uncontrolled magic was so strong that the vase near her exploded; she didn't even blink. "When she died she didn't even know who I was! But she didn't die for a supposedly 'better' race to take over or— or for the rise of another Dark Lord! She died for peace and harmony, but being in war AGAIN IS NOT PEACE! So, when you talk about her death, don't you ever presume to tell me what she died for, because she didn't die for this!"
She grabbed a bag. "I'm leaving and I'm taking my son with me."
"Oh, no you don't. If you want to leave, then leave, but he stays with me. After all, he is my son too!" Draco snapped back.
She let out a cold laugh. "You stupid man. He is my son AND only my son. You can't keep him from me. I promise you, I will be back for him."
She headed for the fire place and grabbed a handful of floo powder. "You know, after he was born, you stopped caring for me and you never showed him love. You were too busy worshiping your Dark Lord ... Please Draco, show the boy some affection, it's the least he deserves."
She tossed the floo powder into the fireplace, stated her intended destination and then turned as she stepped into the green flames. Before her petite frame vanished, Harry was able to see her face clearly. She had curly black hair, gray doe-like eyes and a small button nose. If only he could remember her name. It irked him when he couldn't remember something …
Harry was brought out of his reverie by Draco who was now sobbing into his hands. Harry knew he had to leave, immediately. Dealing with a crying woman was bad enough but dealing with a grown man crying – GRRR – there are some things that even a Dark Lord shouldn't have to witness!
A/N: Okay, sorry I haven't updated in awhile and no, it's not my beta's fault because my CPU was dead for a week. For me w/o internet use for seven days was hell but it was because I got a virius from this sight so I'll look at reviews and stuff and if they're cool enough to respond too, I will!
Also, I had to get a new CPU so I lost the next chapter so I'll have to figure that out. Bummer, I think it was a good one.