Chapter 36 : The Return
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Mia could feel her heart thumping so hard it might explode as she stared at the maze. Just because Fleur and Krum had needed rescuing almost an hour before and the latter had been, somehow, under the Imperious Curse and there was still no sign of Harry or Cedric it didn’t have to mean anything bad… right? Well, of course it means something bad! The Imperious Curse was no kids play – something had to be very wrong for it to have been casted in the middle of the task.
How she wished she had Alex there – holding her baby always made her feel like everything in the world was so much easier. But he wasn’t there. No, her baby was at home with his grandma Lulu likely sleeping soundly in his cot oblivious to anything that might be happening to his older brother.
So, she reached for Sirius’s hand and grasped it, only to have him grasping hers back and pressing a kiss near her ear. He was still as much of a source of comfort as he’d ever been.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, though he was pretty aware of what it was.
“I have a bad feeling, Sirius,” she told him in a whisper. “I really do. I don’t think it’s going to be as easy this time as it has been.”
He gulped, unable to tell her she was talking nonsense. He had the bad feeling too – like something terrible was happening. So, he just stroked her arm and, when she looked him in the eyes, he could tell she was aware that he was thinking of the same.
And then all hell broke loose. There was a flash of light by the entrance of the maze and out of nowhere Harry appeared clutching the Triwizard Cup and Cedric’s apparently unconscious form. Despite the cheers all around her, Mia knew for sure something was very wrong in the moment she saw her godson. Sirius got up and tried to leave the stands, pulling her behind him by the arm. The crowd was mad, nearly impossible to get through and nobody seemed to realize there was no reason for cheering until screams of girls echoed in the front.
The minutes that took her and Sirius to break through the mob and reach the entrance of the maze felt unbelievably tense. And, when they got there, Dumbledore made his way to them quickly with a sober look in his face.
“What happened? What the hell happened?” Mia asked him, nearly hysterically.
“Cedric Diggory is dead,” he told them soberly.
“H…how?” Sirius asked him, feeling an unbearable weight in his throat. Harry had been there too. It could have been him. Harry could have been the one dead.
“We are not sure yet,” the headmaster told them. “But the cup was clearly turned into some sort of portkey that took Harry and Mr. Diggory somewhere else.”
“Why do I feel like you’re not telling us everything?” Sirius asked him with a gulp.
Dumbledore looked down for a moment, trying to find the words to say it, and then lifted his head. “Harry told me he’s back. Voldemort is back and Harry saw it. It seems it was the whole purpose of the portkey.”
Mia covered her mouth with her hand as if to keep a scream from coming out. No, no. It couldn’t be! He couldn’t be back. She tried to believe it wasn’t true but she couldn’t… Harry would never lie about it, nor would Dumbledore. No, she wasn’t that lucky…“He’s back… Harry saw…” She looked around, trying to find him. “Where is he? Where is my godson? He needs us now!”
Dumbledore turned around to point them somewhere but then stopped in confusion. He was gone – just a moment ago Harry had been standing by Alastor and now they were both gone. “Charity,” he called for the Muggle Studies teacher, Charity Burbage, who was nearby trying to keep the students from huddling around Cedric’s body. “Where is Mr Potter and Alastor?”
“Why, he took Potter!” she said in confusion. “I heard him telling Fillius you’d asked him to get Potter away from this madness and take him to the castle, headmaster.”
“No, I don’t believe I’ve ever told him that,” Dumbledore mumbled, putting the pieces together in his head. So that was what had happened…
“Why would Mad-Eye lie about that?” Mia asked him.
“He wouldn’t,” Dumbledore told him in a fairly certain tone, removing his wand from his robes. “Not Alastor Moody.”
Sirius was confused for a moment. What did that mean? Not Alas… and then it hit him. “You… you think he’s an impostor?”
“I know he is,” Dumbledore told him, already making his way to one of the stadium’s exits as they followed. “We need to get to them as fast as we can.”
With all the grief that was going on, the way to castle seemed to become ten times longer than it actually was, which only made the panic inside Mia grow larger. Now it all made sense. It had been him all along. They’d trusted Moody, or who they believed to be Moody, with Harry’s life.
Dumbledore, now flanked by McGonagall and Snape, to Sirius’s surprise, lead them to the DADA office and didn’t even bother to knock – the door was blasted out of the way and though the opening they saw ‘Moody’ pointing his wand at Harry. But Dumbledore was faster – even before the impostor realized the door had been blown up, he was already dropping on the floor stunned.
“Let us through!” Mia yelled, passing through the professors as fast as she could only to reach her godson and pulling him into a bone-crushing hug. And she finally breathed in relief – he was alive.
She pulled away about a minute later, her eyes red from being shut but not teary. “Are you okay? Did he hurt you?”
Harry gulped before answering and glanced at the stunned impostor. “No. He… he serves him. Voldemort. Moody serves him.” There was a look of disbelief on his face as he said that.
“No. That’s not Moody,” Sirius told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Someone’s been posing as him.”
“Polijuice potion,” Dumbledore declared behind Sirius, holding a little vial that had been in the impostor’s truck with a muddy liquid in it that Harry couldn’t help recognizing from his second year.
“He was plotting this all year,” Harry mumbled. “He had a plan to bring Voldemort back and it worked. He’s back. Wormtail helped him.” His face shifted to pain. “He was the one who killed Cedric!”
Sirius gritted his teeth inside his mouth. The bloody bastard. For a moment, he wished he and Remus had killed that piece of garbage in the previous year when they had the chance. He promised himself that one day he’d be the one to put an end to Wormtail. Either it was by killing him, helping someone do it or by delivering him to the Dementors for the kiss, he’d be the one to take the smile out of that miserable rat’s face. But he didn’t utter a word about it, what good would that make right now?
So, he just watched as his wife hugged Harry comfortingly, telling him she was sorry – that he was safe now. And wished that was the truth.
All had been cleared now and all made sense. It was Barty Crouch Jr., the late Barty Crouch Sr.’s allegedly dead son. He’d confessed during the Veritaserum-driven interrogation that he’d not only plotted Voldemort’s return and kept Alastor Moody captive for a whole year but also had killed his own father after the second task.
Mia thought of all that when she woke up in the following morning. And she wished it was a nightmare – a long painful one that could be gone now that she was awake. She wished she could just get up at home, check on little Alex and then go back to her husband’s sleepy embrace like always, having all of that be just a memory of a bad dream.
But it wasn’t. She was still in Hogwarts’ hospital wing, where she’d stayed all night long with Sirius, watching over Harry, who was deeply asleep in the bed next to hers. It had been no dream. Cedric was dead, Harry would carry that with him forever.
“Hey,” she heard her husband’s familiar voice saying. She sat up and turned to her side to see Sirius there sitting on a chair. Like Mia, he had refused to leave Harry that night. “He’s still out. Pomfrey says the potion probably won’t wear off for another hour.”
Mia nodded. “It’s better for him to be asleep right now.” Then, she sighed. “What will we do now, Sirius? He’s back. It will be the war all over again. We have kids now, we are finally together. I… I can bear losing you all over again or any of the kids…”
“You won’t,” Sirius told her, reaching for her hand and grasping it in a comforting fashion like he’d done in the previous day. “We will be alright – all of us. We’ll fight for it to happen, Mia.”
“You don’t know that,” she whispered.
“No, but I believe it,” he replied, moving from the chair for the edge or her bed. “That’s halfway there. If we go into the fight with no hope, we might as well be dead. You know that, Mia.”
She sighed. “I hate this.”
“That makes two of us,” he told her, kissing her forehead. “Dumbledore came by earlier – he asked for us to go to his office around eight, which is in half an hour.”
Mia nodded. “Okay. But shouldn’t we go home before? Check on Alex…”
“Already done that,” Sirius told her. “I went there in time for his five in the morning feeding to make sure everything was alright. Lulu said she wants you home by noon – she doesn’t want you to forget about taking care of yourself. Now, we should go grab some breakfast before going to the meeting.”
“Wait,” Mia told him. “I need to do something before.”
“This,” she said, wrapping her arms around his torso in a hug and resting her head on his shoulder. “Hold me for a minute – it makes everything feel easier.”
He nodded, hugging her back tightly. “Okay.”
It was barely nine and Harry had only just been awake for the past twenty minutes. Yet, half the Gryffindor tower had already paid him a visit, not to mention the non-Gryffindors…
Some them were welcome, mainly Ron and Hermione, the twins and, for a minute or two, Izzy who’d been practically shooed out by Madam Pomfrey along with a group of giggly third-years as soon as she entered the infirmary. But mostly, the visitors just went there to ask how he was, to say they were sorry, that he had nothing to do with Cedric’s death or simply just to ask if You-Know-Who was really back and he wished they’d just stayed away.
That was why he’d frowned when he heard the sound of footsteps not heavy enough to belong to a teacher or to his godparents. He pretended to be asleep – hopefully that would send whomever it was away, well, if Madam Pomfrey didn’t do that for yourself.
He heard a chuckle. “Do you usually sleep with your glasses on or are you just pretending?” a familiar voice asked. Ginny. Well, at least it wasn’t anyone unbearable.
He opened his eyes and saw her taking a seat on the chair by the bed. “I thought it might be that Vane girl and her friends again,” he told her. “Sorry.”
Ginny shrugged. “No problem. Just make sure you get your glasses off next time you want to pretend you’re asleep. Izzy mentioned this place was rather crowded when she came – I was going to meet her head but everyone had been kicked out in the meanwhile.”
“I’ll have to thank her for that,” he mumbled.
She nodded in understanding. “So, how are you doing?”
He huffed. “That’s the number one hit in the question list this morning. Followed by ‘Was it scary facing You-know-who?’.”
The redhead shook her head. “I imagine that’s true. People seem to have a sick interest for tragedies. But how many of the people who asked it have actually been as near him as any of us have? You don’t have to worry about me asking you how scary it was.”
For a moment, her statement brought confusion to his mind. Ginny near him? And then he remembered it. The chamber. Sometimes he just couldn’t relate that Ginny with the little redhead girl he’d saved from the chamber two years before. They seemed so far apart now. It felt so long ago. She was probably the one person who’s visited him that morning who could know, or at least imagine accurately, how it had felt like.
“So, do you want to talk about it or am I wasting my time?” she asked him.
He sighed. “I feel fine.”
“Okay,” Ginny said with a nod. “And do you feel about feeling fine?”
In another situation, that question wouldn’t have made any sense. It would have been a pleonasm. But he understood it. “I feel like I shouldn’t – it doesn’t make sense.” He sighed. “I saw him die. Cedric. Actually die. And I didn’t get anything more than a bloody cut in my arm. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place – I was the one who said we could touch the cup at the same time and share the victory. And everyone keeps telling me I have nothing to do with him dying. I told him to touch the cup – it’s like I pulled the plug. I started what caused him to die and they say I shouldn’t feel guilty for it.”
“But you are guilty of it,” she told him. It wasn’t an accusation – he knew that much. She was speaking from experience – voicing what a part of his mind was telling him. “If you hadn’t told him to touch the cup, Cedric would be alive. If I had turned in the diary when it spoke to me, four students, a ghost and a cat wouldn’t have been petrified for months.”
Harry looked away from her, pleased and annoyed at the same time that she understood the feeling. “They didn’t actually die in your case. That makes it easier to deal with.”
“Easier, Harry? You think it’s easier?! They were supposed to die,” she told him, her voice distressed. How could he have not gotten it yet? “That basilisk was meant to kill, not to petrify! Voldemort didn’t want pretty temporary statues, he wanted dead bodies pilling up. They didn’t die because of a twist of fate… they got lucky – if they had turned in the wrong moment, looked, and saw the basilisk’s eyes directly, I’d have gotten them killed. Four people, Harry. Join you almost dying to save me and that makes five. Merlin knows there might have been more! And you were not the one holding the weapon at Cedric while I was pointing it to them, possessed or not. A 50 feet long basilisk.” She stopped talking for several moment to let herself calm down.
He didn’t know what to say faced with that. All her points were valid. She hadn’t actually killed anyone but now he could see it had been practically as bad for her as it was being for him…
“There’s always a part of you telling you that you’re guilty when you go through what you did or when you get close enough like I did. Other people don’t understand it, so they tell you the opposite, which is worse.”
Harry sighed. “Does it ever go away? The guilt.”
“I don’t think it does. It’s there as long as you remember it or maybe just as long as you have a soul. But it gets easier to deal with and I like to think that, eventually, it stops haunting you.”
“Thanks,” he said. “For understanding.”
She wished couldn’t, that she hadn’t had to learn how to deal with it. “You’re welcome. Now, do you want to tell me about it? Trade stories?”
“Does it help?”
Ginny shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. But at least it lets you know you’re not the only one with a bad story to tell, right?”
Meanwhile, a meeting was going on in the headmaster’s office.
Dumbledore wanted to bring the Order of the Phoenix back. It was necessary, he had said, if they intended to fight back. And neither Sirius nor Mia could disagree. Even though the order reminded of a time when they were sure of nothing, if they’d live another day or if every time they kissed goodbye in the morning would be the last, bringing the order back again was their best shot at fighting back.
“We’ll need to gather new members,” a still very pale-looking Moody, not quite recovered from the long incarceration he’d been in until the previous night, stated.
“Yes, I had thought of that,” Dumbledore told him with a nod. “But first we need to know how many members from the previous Order want to be in it this time. I think we should make the silent calling.”
“Albus, you need to consider than not so many of them will notice it at all,” McGonagall told him. “It’s been years since that call was used.”
The silent calling had been a way to call the order’s members, especially those who worked near the ministry or potential Death Eaters so they wouldn’t call attention whenever summoned by the Order. It worked more or less like the dark mark, though it wasn’t anywhere near being branded on one’s skin. No, it was a small symbol, a triangle that was the ancient symbol of fire, that was marked on an object belonging to the Order member. It would glow softly and feel warm whenever they were needed in the order and, if they touched the symbol with their wand and then a piece of parchment, the place where they were being summoned would be indicated in it, only for them to see. Sirius or Mia had never needed it themselves just as Remus, Elizabeth and Wormtail hadn’t. But they knew James and Lily had used it. And McGonagall was right – the odds of having lost the object in the meanwhile were large.
“Minerva, I just want to see how many people respond to us this way,” Dumbledore told her. “We can also contact them personally, though the other way would be more… discreet.” He turned to Sirius and Mia. “I assume you have no problem with talking to Remus and Ms. Harper and other older members you remember. I think it would be wise not to have them all contacted by the same person.”
Sirius shook his head. “No problem. We can do that.”
Dumbledore nodded, reaching for a drawer of his desk. “Thank you. That’s very helpful. Minerva, Alastor and I can take care of the rest, I believe.” He took out a piece of parchment and wrote something on it. “Well, I will make the first meeting in a week at the Shrieking Shack as we still do not have suitable headquarters.”
And then, he patted his wand on the parchment, casting the spell without a word and, at that moment, the Order of the Phoenix was back.
Thousands of miles away, in another continent, the triangle that was the symbol of fire burned in the back of a watch. Its owner looked at the little object in surprise as he felt the bearable heat touching his skin. Now that was something he hadn’t felt in years.
He’d been dead for a long time. Over a decade, to be accurate. He might still have a heartbeat, still be able to breathe but he was, to the world, and also to himself, a dead man. He’d lost everything. The war had destroyed it all as it had destroyed him. He was little more than a ghost.
And now he was being called back to the world of the living. Ironic, he thought. He doubted they even knew they had summoned him – probably guessed he was actually dead. Why wouldn’t they? It was what everyone thought. So, should he go back? Should he bother? He had no reason to leave that place. It would blow his cover, not that he was so attached to it at all. He only cared for being alive out of respect for the person who’d saved him.
But they wouldn’t have called the Order of the Phoenix back if it wasn’t important… Merlin, a twisted part of him wished it was bad, wished he was being summoned to go fight those bastards who had destroyed what he’d held most dear. Yes, that was a good reason to go. If not for anything else, revenge. He’d make them pay.
So, he decided. He’d bring himself back to life, at least as far as the world knew. Because, there or anywhere else, he still felt dead in the inside.
A/N: Half a day late, but it's here. Well, I got held up writing a future chapter (when inspiration comes, you can't stop it...) I hope you liked the little teaser in the end. Any thoughts? I'm curious about finding out if any of you gets who 'he' is right. Send some feedback. Review!
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