McGonagall was the first to return, with Sirius in his dog-form trotting obediently behind her. When Snape returned with a bottle full of Veritaserum, Dumbledore forced the portion down Crouch's throat, then used a reviving charm on the stunned Death Eater. Crouch awoke and told them the whole story of his journey to Hogwarts: how his mother used Polyjuice Potion to take his place in Azkaban, how his father kept him a prisoner in their home, how he was discovered by Bertha Jorkins, and how Bertha's memory was obliviated by Barty Crouch, Sr.

"And then, my master came for me," Crouch said, his face in an expression of rapture. Jorkins had been captured by Pettigrew and Voldemort in Albania, and they had undone Crouch Senior's memory charm. Her mind was utterly destroyed, but it was not matter to them. Pettigrew and Voldemort had a new target: Crouch Senior, who they attacked and placed under the Imperius Curse. Crouch Junior was released, and together they set in motion the plan to resurrect Voldemort.

"I took the place of my father's assistant," Crouch said.

"WHERE'S PERCY?" Harry shouted suddenly. McGonagall, Snape and Dumbledore turned to Harry, surprised by the interruption.

"In my father's basement," Crouch Junior said, answering Harry's question. "He waits there under the Imperius Curse."

"We have to go save him!" Harry said.

"Harry is right," Dumbledore agreed. "Percy was kept alive to supply ingredients for the polyjuice potion. But, if Voldemort's plan was to come to fruition tonight, Mr. Weasley may have been neglected."

"He might be alive," offered Crouch Junior in an airy, potion-addled voice. "Might."

"Minerva?" asked Dumbledore.

"I will see to it," McGonagall said.

"Thank you. Please find Filius, and send him here, as well."
McGonagall nodded, and left the room at a brisk walk.

Snape resumed the interrogation. Crouch Junior described how he had kept his father under the Imperius Curse for most of the year. They had stolen Harry's signature from a homework assignment Harry had turned into Professor Sprout, Crouch Senior serving as a distraction while Crouch Junior took the parchment. Harry's name was placed in the Goblet of Fire almost immediately after it was lit, as soon as the Crouches were alone in the Great Hall.

Ironically, Harry felt a surge of relief when he learned this. Snape was finally absolved of all involvement.

"And where is Barty Crouch, Senior, now?" Dumbledore asked quietly.

"My father managed to break free of the Imperius curse when we returned home for the holidays. On the night I returned to Hogwarts for Yule Ball, my father made his attempt at escape. Wormtail caught him and killed him before my father could leave our house." Crouch Junior smiled at this, and Harry felt his stomach turn. "I took full control of the tournament, and lied to say that my father was ill, and was sending me instructions from home."

Crouch Junior continued, telling them how he had manipulated the tournament. Convinced that Harry was too lazy and childish to uncover the truth of the first task on his own, Crouch Junior had taken Harry to speak with Charlie Weasley to ensure Harry's survival. "As the second task approached, I learned from Percy Weasley's sister that Potter was struggling with the bubblehead charm."

"How did Ginny know that?" Harry asked.

"Granger told her," Crouch said. "I taunted Snape about Harry's weakness, and his stupidity for failing to discover gillyweed as an alternative. I then left Hogwarts, under the pretext of being called away for business. I knew that Snape would give Harry the gillyweed. And then, before the last task was set to begin, I turned the Tri-Wizard Cup into a portkey."

"You couldn't know that Potter would win," Snape said angrily. Harry knew the source of his anger—it was Snape who had advised Harry to try to win the tournament. If he had told Harry to be safe, to simply focus on survival, none of this might have happened.

"I put Krum under the Imperius Curse," Crouch Junior said. "Through him, I attacked Delacour. I tried to attack Diggory, but could not find him. But Potter won, anyway. And now my master has returned."

A breathless Flitwick arrived at the door. "You sent for me, Albus?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Please, go in search of Minister Fudge. He should be on the grounds. I have no doubt that he will wish to question Barty Crouch, Junior. Severus will stand guard, in the meantime." Dumbledore placed a hand on Harry's back, and gently guided him out of the office. "Now, Harry, if you will come with me…"

Dumbledore led Harry to Dumbledore's own office, with Sirius following closely at Harry's side. As soon as they were inside the office, Sirius transformed back to his human form. Harry sat down in one of Dumbledore's large chairs, overcome with a sudden weariness. His fury at his Pettigrew, at Voldemort, at Crouch Junior, at himself for his own weakness… it was gone. All he had left was the awful fatigue of the evening, and the throbbing pain in his cheek where his knife wound had scabbed over.

"I regret asking this of you," Dumbledore said. "But I must know what happened, Harry."

Sirius protested. "He's been through enough, Dumbledore. Can't he tell you later?"

"No," Harry said. "Voldemort planned to attack tonight. He planned to use the portkey to return to Hogwarts and attack the crowd. He wanted to surprise Dumbledore and kill us all."

Sirius's face had gone white.

"Perhaps Voldemort's plans have changed," Dumbledore said. "Perhaps he will not attack tonight, as his ambush has been spoiled. Or, perhaps he is simply constrained by methods of slower travel, and we will confront Voldemort before dawn. Alastor is preparing Hogwarts' defenses, but I must know the whole of it."

Harry took a deep breath, and began his tale. When Pettigrew entered the story, Sirius clenched his teeth and growled in anger. The greatest reaction came from Dumbledore, when Harry described how Voldemort had used his blood as part of the resurrection ritual. Dumbledore leaped from his seat to examine Harry's wound.

"He could touch me," Harry said, as Dumbledore prodded at his wound. "His magic could affect me, when it never could before. He was able to use the Cruciatus curseon me."

Dumbledore nodded, and sat. He seemed equal parts excited and scared.

Harry continued with his tale. Naturally, Harry changed the facts of his duel with Pettigrew. Harry claimed that he had killed Pettigrew in self-defense, and told Dumbledore and Sirius that there had been a quick exchange of spells before Pettigrew tripped and gave Harry an opening for a last, desperate curse. Sirius seemed proud of how well Harry had acquitted himself, and pleased that Harry had avenged his parents. Dumbledore had a curious look on his face, but before Harry could figure out what it meant, it was gone.

Harry skipped the part where Voldemort offered to let Harry join the Death Eaters, and advanced directly to his duel with Voldemort. When Harry described his duel, and the mysterious connection of their wands, Dumbledore began to smile.

"Do you know what was happening?" Harry asked.

"Yes," Dumbledore said. "Priori Incantatum. The Reverse Spell effect. When two wands that share a core meet, they will not work properly against one another. Instead, one wand will force the other to regurgitate its spells, in reverse. How long were your wands connected, Harry?"

"Only a few moments," Harry said. "As soon as I forced the ball of light into Voldemort's wand, I used the connection to throw him off balance. I broke the connection and blasted a hole in the floor. In all the confusion, I was able to dive through the hole, grab Cedric, use a summoning charm on the cup, and come back to Hogwarts."

Dumbledore's smile had suddenly become sad, but Harry had no idea why. "An excellent course of action, Harry," Dumbledore said. "One that likely saved your life. And perhaps saved us all. After such a strange defeat, I doubt that Voldemort will attack us tonight. His attack assumed that we would be surprised, not only by the attack but by his presence. And until he knows more about the interaction of your wands-"

There was a knock on the door to Dumbledore's office. As quick as a wink, Sirius transformed into a dog. He sat obediently by Harry's side.

"Enter," called Dumbledore.

Filius Flitwick burst into the office, followed closely by Cornelius Fudge. Flitwick was red in the face, obviously upset, and so full of nervous energy that he couldn't stand still.

"Tell him!" Flitwick shouted at Fudge. "Tell him what you've done!"

"I've simply done what was necessary," Fudge said quickly. The Minister was flustered by Flitwick's anger.

"What you've done: it is a travesty!" Flitwick said. "It's abhorrent! That wasn't justice!"

"Please calm down, Filius," Dumbledore asked. "What has happened?"

"The Minister brought a Dementor onto the castle grounds! His orders: kiss Barty Crouch, Junior, immediately! He's already gone!"

Harry rocked backward in his chair. Crouch Junior, kissed already? Without a trial? Well, without a second trial?

"By all accounts, he was a raving lunatic," Fudge said. "Thought he was taking orders from You-Know-Who."

"He was taking orders from Voldemort," Dumbledore said. His voice was quiet, but firm. "And now he will be unable to provide us with any further information, or with any testimony."

"I- but-" Fudge had begun to stammer. "What do you mean, taking orders from You-Know-Who?"

"Voldemort has returned," Dumbledore said. "Harry witnessed it. Tragically, so did Cedric Diggory."

Fudge began to shake his head. "You're taking this boy at his word? Surely you can't be serious?"

"I have no reason to doubt Harry."

Fudge forced himself to laugh. "The things we've been hearing about the boy… odd happenings, speaking with snakes… I don't know that he can be trusted."

"You've been reading too much Rita Skeeter," Harry said in a low voice. Fudge's head snapped around in surprise—if he had ever noticed that Harry was in the room, he had already forgotten.

"You simply can't make these accusations…" Fudge began.

"I'm not accusing anybody of anything," Harry said, feeling his temper begin to rise. He didn't like being called a liar. "I'm telling you the truth."

"There just isn't any proof!" Fudge blurted desperately.

"And whose fault is that?" Dumbledore asked gently. Fudge blanched, realizing the mistake he had made by having Crouch Junior kissed.

"You mean to tell me that Cedric Diggory's body isn't proof?" Harry asked.

"We always knew that the tournament would carry risks…"

"Nothing in the tournament killed Cedric! It was Peter Pettigrew!"

A curious look crossed Fudge's face. "Pettigrew? Wasn't he the lad that Sirius Black killed?"

"No," Harry said vehemently. "Sirius Black is innocent. Pettigrew is the traitor who betrayed my parents to Voldemort. He is a Death Eater, and he was there, tonight, when Voldemort was resurrected."

Fudge turned back to Dumbledore. "Clearly, something has addled the boy's mind. He needs rest."

"PETTIGREW WAS THERE," Harry shoulted. "You want proof?" Harry stood and snatched Pettigrew's wand out of his back pocket. He slammed it down on Dumbledore's desk. "Here's Pettigrew's wand. I fought him tonight, and I killed him for what he did to my parents. There's your proof."

Fudge drew back in shock. "That could be anybody's wand," Fudge said. It was obvious that even Fudge didn't believe his own words.

"It's Pettigrew's," Harry said insistently. "Why don't we summon Ollivander and ask him? He remembers every wand he's ever sold."

"I… Well… Even if it is Pettigrew's wand, it isn't proof that Voldemort returned, or that Sirius Black is innocent!"

"A dozen wizards saw Pettigrew with this wand on the day he blew up those muggles!" Harry shouted.

Fudge shook his head. "A dozen wizards saw Pettigrew with some wand. There's no proof that it was this wand."

"You know you're wrong," Harry said firmly. Fudge would not meet Harry's eyes. "You know that I'm telling the truth, but you're denying it because you're scared. You're a coward."

"I have never claimed to be a Gryffindor," Fudge said defensively. "I cannot alarm the wizarding populace by announcing Voldemort's return without absolute proof."

"And I'm telling you that I saw him with my own eyes!"

Fudge shook his head again. "I must make the responsible, rational, practical decision. Surely you understand, Harry. I was in Slytherin, just like you."

"And I've never been more ashamed of it," Harry said. Harry snatched Pettigrew's wand from the table.

"Wait," Fudge said, holding out his hand. "That wand is evidence."

"Of what?" Harry snapped. "You just told me that Voldemort hasn't returned, and that Pettigrew is an innocent victim. This is the wand of a hero, according to you. The last remembrance of my parents' dear friend. You can't possibly mean to deprive me of this wand, which carries so much personal and sentimental value!" Harry's voice hardened dangerously. "If you want it, just try to take it from me."

"Harry," Dumbledore said gently, "the Minister and I have pressing matters to discuss. Perhaps you would excuse us?"

"There's no excuse for him," Harry snapped as he stood. Harry stormed from the room, and behind him he heard the rhythmic clicking of toenails on stone—Sirius, in dog form, following him.

As Harry started down the stairs, he heard Fudge begin speaking to Dumbledore. "So this is what you've done to the Boy Who Lived? Molded him into some sort of weapon to unleash against me and oust me from the Ministry?"

Harry turned on his heel and charged back into Dumbledore's office. "Don't blame this on anyone else, Fudge. You did this yourself."

Professor Flitwick stepped in between Fudge and Harry. "Mr. Potter: come along. You should go to the hospital wing." Flitwick put a hand on Harry's chest and gently began pushing Harry from the room.

Harry pointed over Flitwick's head, directly at Fudge. "You did this to yourself," Harry repeated. Fudge said nothing, and Harry allowed Flitwick to usher him from the room.


Harry returned to the Slytherin common room the next morning. The tenor of the room had changed dramatically. Last night's excitement and camaraderie was gone. It had been replaced with nervous apprehension. People stood around, speaking in low voices with only their closest friends. There were no games, no jokes, no laughter. It reminded Harry of the night that Mrs. Norris had been discovered, petrified, during his second year. Nobody was speaking directly about what had happened, but it was obvious that everyone was considering the implications.

As Harry passed through the common room, he found himself once again on the receiving end of suspicious glances. Younger students obviously shied away from him, while older students simply turned their attention elsewhere. It was as if Harry had contracted dragonpox—it was clear that nobody wished to have any sort of contact with him.

Draco was not in the common room, nor was he in their dormitory. Harry felt a massive surge of relief. Harry had spent the night in the hospital wing tossing and turning, trying to decide whether he should say anything to Draco about his father. There were just too many things to consider, and Harry couldn't wrap his mind around them all. Draco was his best friend, and deserved to know what had happened. But Draco seemed to believe his father's story about being placed under the Imperius curse during the first war. And maybe that was still true—maybe Lucius was still being blackmailed. But it certainly hadn't seemed that way. Last night, Lucius had seemed like a true believer.

If Harry let Draco find out from his father, then Harry might lose his friend forever. Blood was far more important to Draco than friendship; in many ways, blood defined Draco's friendships. If there was any scenario in which Draco took Harry's side, though, Harry would have to be the one to tell Draco.

But if Harry told Draco, then Draco might call Harry a liar, and Harry might lose his friend forever.

Maybe Lucius wouldn't tell Draco what had happened. It was possible that Lucius would keep secret his life as a Death Eater, even from his own family. In that case, Harry and Draco could maintain their friendship, operating on a thinly-maintained fiction of mutual obliviousness.

It was too much to think about. Too much to deal with. Just… too much. Harry was glad that Draco wasn't around. Harry had been through enough confrontations in the last day; he didn't need another.

What he needed was comfort, so Harry went looking for Pansy. She, too, was nowhere to be found. It took him several minutes, but Harry was eventually able to corner Millicent Bullistrode and ask after Pansy.

"She left last night," Millicent said quickly. Her back was literally against a wall in the common room, and Harry could see her eyes darting around. He wasn't sure whether Millicent was looking to see if people noticed them speaking, or if she was looking for an escape route.

"Left? When?"
"After you came back with Diggory's body. Her parents were here to watch the tournament, and they took her home."

"How do you know?"

"I saw her packing in our dormitory." Millicent's deep voice had begun to rise. "That's all I know, Potter!"

"Thanks," Harry said, loading his voice with sarcasm. As soon as Harry turned away, Millicent bolted out of the common room.

Harry looked around. Everybody seemed to be looking at him, but he couldn't actually catch anybody doing it. It was half-glances, cast out of the corners of eyes from downturned heads. Harry didn't like it at all.

Harry left the common room. He didn't know where he was going, but anywhere would be better than Slytherin.

A/N: So, I don't usually reply to reviews in the author's note, but I'm going to break form here, just a little. SCP-8008's guest review, to which I could not respond in a PM, was a great analysis of what has happened in the story. A different reviewer from a few months ago (mid-Yule Ball, if I recall) noted that the story had moved away from action/adventure and toward relationships and dating; it was purposeful, and SCP has put his finger on why.

Only one chapter to go, after this one! Make sure you favorite/follow me as an author, so you don't miss out on the transition.