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Return to Prince Manor by Snapegirl
Chapter 29 : Darkness Rising
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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At the end of May, Barty Crouch and Ludo Bagman called the four champions together in the small room just off the Entrance Hall and revealed to them the third task, which was to take place in the evening upon June 24th. It was the final and hardest task of the tournament and it was also the one that they were allowed to invite their parents and/or other family members to if they so wished. Harry's immediate family was already there, but he decided to ask Phil if Julie and the twins would like to be there to cheer him on as well. They could sit with Hermione, Ron, Draco, and Katie—all of whom would know about the vampire family. He would have asked Sarai as well, but Smidgen had told him the Captain of the Royal Guard would not likely get time off again till much later in the summer, after Titania had her Midsummer Revel, during the summer solstice. The solstice was, unfortunately, after the last task, according to the shimmerling.

The four champions stood at attention while Bagman and Crouch explained the final and most formidable task of the tournament. "It's the last task, you see, and therefore the most challenging," Bagman began, smiling a little. "It's kind of based off Greek mythology and the trials of knighthood long ago. We, Barty and I, like to call it the Gauntlet of the Labyrinth. You all know about Theseus and the Minotaur, right? How the Minotaur was placed in an underground maze and Theseus had to go and fight it? Well, this is similar, although the maze won't be underground, but a hedge maze that shifts and moves, and there is only one right path to get to the prize, which is the Triwizard Cup."

"Inside the maze will be the gauntlet—like the knights of old, you'll have to run a series of obstacles and defeat a series of monsters, but while a knight faced martial challenges, you'll face magical ones," Crouch explained calmly. "Take heed, these challenges are unlike those you've faced before-they will require wits and magical strength and above all—fortitude. The previous challenges were designed to test your body and mind, this last one shall test your heart. Only if you can find the correct path and defeat the things upon it will you come to the end of the labyrinth and win the Cup. Also, you are timed, you have two hours to find your way through, or be disqualified. We shall give you a spell to cast if you are too badly injured or weakened to continue, it's called a Flare Charm—using it will shoot up red sparks and inform us that you're having major difficulties. The first champion to make it through the maze will be declared the winner and win the entire tournament. Any kind of attempt by a champion to sabotage another will result in disqualification." Here Crouch looked sharply at Krum, who shuffled his feet and looked away.

Fleur raised her hand. "Sir? What sort of things shall we face? Can you give us a . . . hint?" Her English had improved dramatically over the months she had spent at Hogwarts.

Bagman looked pained. "Well . . .there are a lot of different things happening in the maze. Like Barty said, you'll have to use everything you've got to get out. You might face carnivorous Tantagulla, or even a minotaur, possibly some fiery projectiles—yes, the maze itself is trapped at times—some wind haunts and maybe an acromantula or two. My advice is to study really hard all the defensive spells and battle magic you know, as well as some concealment charms. You don't need to stomp everything in order to complete the tournament, you can also outwit things. Cleverness counts just as much as spellcraft."

"We're timed?" whined Viktor. "But vhy? Isn't it enough that ve are already going to be facing vicious beasts and so forth?"

"You've been timed on all the tasks, Mr. Krum," Crouch reminded him. "This one is no different. We don't want to be here all night waiting for you to find your way through."

"This sucks!" muttered Krum, scowling.

"Spoilsport," Cedric growled.

Harry nodded then he ignored the other's grumbling. He was going to have to get some more training sessions since this was going to be a doozy of a fight. He hoped that Uncle Phil and Severus could give him some more pointers. Forewarned was forearmed.

Later that evening, Cafall discovered a confused Mr. Crouch wandering about the grounds. The wizard did not seem to recognize the misthound and Cafall could sense magic used upon the wizard, and he wrinkled his nose and growled, for the dark taint was unmistakable. The misthound, far more intelligent than a dog, rushed back to bring Harry and Draco to the scene.

Cafall reached the two, who were tossing a Quaffle back and forth and hovering on their brooms, and went into a barking frenzy.

"What's up with him?" asked Draco. "He's gone loony."

Harry peered down at the distressed misthound. "Something's not right. I've never seen him like this." He landed. "Cafall! What is it, boy?"

The dog went insane, whining and barking, jumping up on Harry and grabbing the sleeve of his robe and pulling.

"Looks like he wants to play," Draco said. "Get your sleeve out of his mouth before he tears it."

"No, this isn't how he plays," Harry said, more familiar with the dog's behavior since he spent more time with Cafall. "Release, Cafall!" He commanded, and the dog let his sleeve go, but continued to whine and walk a few steps and then look back and bark urgently. "Seems like he wants to show us something. Cafall, hunt!"

The misthound tore off, howling eerily.

Harry and Draco followed on their brooms, the dog was running like the wind.

At first, Cafall had to find the wandering wizard again, because Crouch hadn't remained in one spot, but the dog's nose was bred to chase magical game and it was no trouble for him to find Crouch. Cafall frisked up to the confused wizard and bayed happily, letting his young masters know he had treed his quarry. The bell-like sound echoed across the grounds and brought Smidgen to see what the misthound had discovered as well.

"Why, it's Mr. Crouch!" exclaimed Harry.

Draco peered at him. The wizard's face was slack and his eyes were not at all normal. "Sir? Are you all right?"

"Huh? What? Where am I? Who are you?" Crouch asked, his blue eyes were puzzled.

"Don't you recognize us?" Harry asked. "It's me, Harry Snape, and my brother, Draco."

*I believe he's under some kind of enchantment,* Smidgen sent, fluttering over the tall wizard. * A spell of forgetting, perhaps.*

"You mean a Memory Charm?" Draco queried.

"Why would someone do that?" Harry scowled.

*Someone with something to hide. Perhaps Mr. Crouch saw something he shouldn't have.* Surmised the fae cat.

"We'd better get him back to the school. He could hurt himself out here." Harry said. "Uh, sir? We're here to help you, so could you please come with us?" He gently took the austere wizard's arm.

"I . . .where am I?"

"You're at Hogwarts," Draco replied, taking his other arm. "You're overseeing the Triwizard Tournament."

"I . . .am? How . . .extraordinary!"

Together the two boys and the dog led the head of Magical Cooperation back to the school. They dropped him off at Dumbledore's office, and the Headmaster promised to have the curse removed and see if Crouch recalled anything of who had cast it. That was highly unlikely, though, because that would have been the first thing the wizard would have been meant to forget.

"Don't worry, boys. I'll have everything set to right." Dumbledore reassured them. "Go on, go back to your common rooms." He waved them away. Then he turned to the stricken Crouch. "Now, Barty, let me see if I can restore you to yourself. . ."

The two brothers hurried down the stairs to the dungeons, where they told their father and uncle what had occurred.

The vampire frowned. "There is something going on here that makes me uneasy. Someone is hiding something and I intend to find out what it is."

"Might I suggest you start with Igor?" said Severus.

"I have watched him before and found nothing out of the ordinary." Phil mused. "Still, I might not have caught him out yet."

"You could also keep an eye on Professor Moody," Draco spoke up. "He's been behaving kind of . . .oddly."

"In what way?" Severus demanded.

"Well, he's been sort of . . .distracted lately. And he's been emphasizing more curses than countercurses."

"Hmmm . . .while it is true it's important to study curses so you know how to counter them, the emphasis should be upon how to avoid them, not how to cast them," Severus told his sons.

"I shall seek him out as well." Philip said.

"Uncle Phil, while we're still on the subject of the tournament, Bagman said that for the last task we could invite family members and I was thinking . . .would it be okay if I invited Aunt Julie and the twins?"

Phil looked startled. "Why, yes, they would probably enjoy it. That's very thoughtful of you, Harry."

"I'll send them a letter soon," Harry said.

"And we'll begin practicing tomorrow night," his father said. "You'll need all the practice you can get."

"Yeah, I know." Harry said. "Will Draco be joining us?"

"If he wishes. For kin-sa-dor especially."

"I do. If I don't start practicing again, I'm going to lose my form," Draco said.

Dumbledore managed to restore Crouch to himself, though he did not regain all of his memories. He could not identify his attacker, saying that whoever had attacked him had done so from behind and so he never saw the person's face. "I was walking along, thinking, and suddenly . . .I was struck . . .and then I knew nothing . . ."

The incident was very disturbing, but as yet there was nothing anyone could do, except to be cautious where they went alone.

Harry and Draco were practicing combat techniques with Severus and Phil in the Room of Requirement every free moment they had. There was no telling just what the gauntlet would have in it, and so Harry was being prepared to deflect almost anything and also to study up on various ways to defeat magical creatures like a minotaur. Hermione and Katie helped by doing research upon carnivorous plants and animals. Ron assisted by being another target for them to duel, and picked up pointers as well on Defense that weren't covered in DADA class.

Otherwise it was classes as usual, though Trelawney did begin her usual prediction of dire things about to commence, especially when she read Harry's horoscope. It was on one of those days, when they were supposed to be deciphering tea leaves, that Harry fell asleep and had a strange dream about Voldemort.

In it he dreamed that the Dark Lord was indoctrinating one of his followers, a wispy haired skinny youth with bad acne that looked about sixteen or seventeen. He looked vaguely familiar and eagerly accepted the pain that came with the Dark Mark.

"I will serve you forever, Master!" exclaimed the youth, a worshipful and insane look in his eyes. "Even unto death! I shall be true!"

And Voldemort smiled, a terrible smile, and patted the boy on the head. "You shall be my hound, boy. And when I send you to hunt down traitors, you shall show them no mercy."

"Yes, my Lord! Anything!" The boy knelt and kissed the hem of the dark robe, while beyond Harry saw several other robed figures, including Lucius Malfoy and Igor Karkaroff.

"Anything?" purred Voldemort. "Would you, for instance, kill a friend if I so ordered?"

"I would!"

"How about a dear family member?"

"If you told me they had committed a crime against you, then yes! I would kill my own mother!"

Harry shuddered then, his stomach turning over at the madness in the other's face.

"Very good, my pet!" Again he caressed the boy's head. "You shall serve me well." He lifted his arms then. "Behold, my faithful! Here is my Hound! Welcome your brother into our company!"

The other Death Eaters clapped as ordered, though Harry could see jealousy upon some faces, especially Bellatrix and Wormtail.

Abruptly, Harry felt his shoulder shaken and he woke.

"Hey, mate! Wake up!" It was Ron.

"What happened?" Harry felt muzzy and his scar ached.

"Fell asleep. Not that I blame you." Ron whispered. "I wrote down the homework for you." He handed Harry a piece of parchment. "You okay? You look sort of out of it."

"I feel like that. I had a weird dream." Harry said. He found he didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to alarm Ron. But at the same time he felt that he needed to talk to someone, and his father was still teaching and Phil was spying on Moody.

As they were leaving the tower, Harry got an idea. "Go on to lunch, Ron. I'll be back in a few minutes."

"Where are you going?"

"To talk to the Headmaster. I need to ask him something."

"Now?"

"Yes. Go on ahead." Harry waved him off and headed towards the gargoyle.

In a few minutes he was upstairs in the Headmaster's office, and speaking to the old wizard about his odd dream. "And I don't know why, but I kind of got the feeling that it wasn't just a dream . . .that it really happened. And I was wondering if you knew who that kid was . . .the one who was so happy to become a Death Eater?"

"Ah." The old wizard looked grave. "I do know him, but before I answer that question, I think you need to take a look at something." He moved over to a small cabinet that rested behind the door. Opening it, he took out a round stone basin with odd runes carved in the sides. "This, Harry, is a Pensieve."

"What is it?"

"It stores memories of mine that I find are difficult to deal with or that need closer examination. Using it, I can re-examine individual memories and share them with others. Pensieve memories are sometimes used as evidence in Ministry trials."

Harry peered into the bowl. There was a silvery liquid swirling around and around.

"Here. There is one particular memory I wish you to see . . ." Dumbledore said, and then he showed Harry how to put his face into the bowl and when Harry did so he was falling through the air . . .

After about five minutes, Harry emerged from the Pensieve, which had shown him several trials of former convicted Death Eaters, including Karkaroff and the wispy boy, who turned out to be Barty Crouch's son.

"He condemned his own son to Azkaban?" Harry said, incredulous. "I mean, I know the kid was loony and stuff, but that was his son."

"Yes, but Barty was always a stickler for the law and believed unconditionally that no one was above it. When he discovered that his son had a hand in the torture of the Longbottoms, he had no choice but to convict him. I don't think, however, that he ever recovered from it. I do know that his son later died in prison and his wife followed soon after. A terrible tragedy. Barty was running for Minister, and he resigned because he felt he was unfit for the position and many people found him too harsh when he condemned his own child to Azkaban. Poor Barty! I truly think he tore himself apart giving that conviction, but if he hadn't . . .it's a sad tale."

Harry shuddered. Now he could understand better where the kid got his fanaticism from. He couldn't imagine his own father ever condemning him to such a fate. No, Dad would kick my arse to kingdom come himself, but he'd never chuck me in prison. "What about Karkaroff?"

"As you saw, Igor turned informer in exchange for staying out of Azkaban. Since then he has never been connected with any of the former Death Eaters still free."

"Like Lucius Malfoy."

"Precisely. Does your scar still hurt?"

"No, sir. Not anymore." He touched it absently. "Why am I having these weird visions?"

"Perhaps you are overtired? I am not certain."

Harry frowned. Or perhaps the vision was a warning, but a warning of what? A Death Eater who had been dead for over thirteen years? How would that help him?

"Oh. Well, thanks for showing me that. I guess I understand better now why Mr. Crouch is so . . .uptight and so depressed sometimes."

"Yes, he has fits of melancholy, and I think that is why he dismissed his house elf. He is a proud man and did not wish to have anyone witness his loss of control . . ." Dumbledore sighed again.

Harry nodded. He felt sorry for Crouch, but he wondered about Karkaroff. The tall wizard had sang like a canary back then, but that didn't mean he hadn't gone back to his old ways in the meantime. Phil was right to keep watch over him. Harry didn't like or trust him or the Durmstrang champion.

He returned to eat lunch with Ron and Hermione, who was trying to drum up support for her new "Free the Elves" campaign, asking other Gryffindors if they had house elves and how they felt about them.

"I'm doing a survey," she told Harry. "Seeing how many people have elves and who don't and why." She pointed to a clipboard where she had jotted down the names of their Housemates.

"Oh. Good luck." Harry said, then he began to eat.

That night he told Severus and Draco what had gone on and Severus said to write down any other strange visions he happened to have about Voldemort and tell him immediately. "Send Smidgen with a letter or Frost or Hedwig. The Prince line has been known to produce a few bona fide Seers, and if these are prescient visions, of the past or the present . . ."

"You never told me that, Dad. I thought you thought it was all a bunch of bull, Divination."

"I think Trelawney is a fraud, and the way she teaches class a waste of time, but a true Seer with the Gift is something else again. A true Seer is very rare however, and they are born, not taught." Severus answered.

"Could I be one?"

"It's possible. But I have never displayed the Gift and thus am unsure how it expresses or when. We'll have to wait and see and perhaps when this term is over, we can speak with Sarai, I am sure there are Seers in the Faerie Queen's court who can test you for potential."

Harry was sure there were. What he wasn't sure of was whether or not he wished to have another weird ability to deal with, like he did Parseltongue. He had enough to deal with already.

May slid into June and Harry found himself preoccupied with studying for finals along with his other friends and Draco as well as attending the extra practice sessions. Severus monitored all of them when they were studying, but especially Hermione. Long after Harry, Draco, and Ron had enough of studying, Hermione was still going strong. That was when Severus came over and shut her Arithmancy book and said firmly, "That's enough for one evening, Miss Granger."

Hermione looked up at him in dismay. "But—but Professor, I just have to re-read the last chapter—"

"No, Miss Granger. Three and a half hours is plenty of time for this evening. Put your books away."

To Harry and Ron's shock, she flashed Snape a mutinous scowl. "Sir, I'm perfectly capable of finishing this."

He frowned down at her. "That's as may be, but you will not be doing it tonight, am I clear? No, not another word. Remember our agreement? I will not have you stressing yourself out unduly. This is a mere test, not life and death. Your mind needs relaxation." He folded his arms over his chest. Unlike most teachers, Severus did not need to raise his voice in order to convey displeasure, disappointment, or maintain order. He spoke in a firm and stern tone and despite her irritation, Hermione found herself obeying.

She put away her books and joined Draco, Harry, and Ron at the table in the Snape quarters, where they were starting a game of Dragon's Wild. They used candy in place of coins and even Hermione enjoyed the game.

Draco put his arm around her. "Don't look like that," he whispered in her ear. "You know he was right, don't you?"

"Doesn't mean I have to like it," she grumbled.

He chuckled. "You remind me of me, whenever Dad told me I couldn't do something."

She blushed. "Are you saying I'm acting childish?"

"Not in so many words," her boyfriend said.

"I am, aren't I?" she looked down at her hands. "All right. He means well." She picked up her hand and examined it.

Draco withdrew so he could play his own cards, and the friends spent the rest of the night playing cards and swapping embarrassing stories while Snape graded papers.

As the end of June approached, things grew even more intense between the four champions. Fleur was studying with Hagrid and Madame Maxime on how to defend against magical creatures and plants, Cedric was boning up on his agility and reflexes by playing a special form of Quidditch with seven Bludgers. And Krum was studying other darker things with his mentor, Igor Karkaroff.

Phil discovered this one afternoon while he lingered upon the Durmstrang ship. He had long ago learned that the Durmstrang Institute was a school that followed old and darker ways than Beauxbatons and Hogwarts. Karkaroff, former Death Eater, favored competitiveness among his students and punished failure harshly, with whippings and starvation and sometimes curses. Students feared more than respected him and the Dark Arts was taught at this academy. It was also an all make school, austere, martial, and set high in an unknown frost-rimed mountain range, with arctic lakes, and almost no contact with the outside world.

Thus Phil was not surprised to hear Karkaroff giving his champion a vicious tongue-lashing after he had twice failed to come in first or second during the tasks given. "Twice you have failed and dishonored not only the reputation of this school, but my own as well as your mentor and Headmaster!" Karkaroff raged.

"Forgive me, Master. I shall try harder." Krum whined, no longer the cocky Seeker.

"Do more than try, Viktor! Succeed! You are lucky I have not caned you for your previous failures. Were you anyone else . . ." Karkaroff snarled. "Now, attend! This task shall be the one that will truly test your talents and those of your companions. I know for a fact that none of the others except perhaps Snape's whelp can match you when it comes to dueling. I want you to take them out, one by one, do you understand?"

"Yes, but . . .I can be disqualified if I do that, sir."

Karkaroff raised a hand and slapped the younger wizard across the face. "No backtalk, boy! You use your head and you won't get caught! No more playing by the rules as they know them. Make your own rules—win at any cost! Use curses if necessary, but make sure you make it through the maze and the obstacles on time and are the only one standing in front of that cup. This must be a Durmstrang victory! Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good boy! Win and you'll be famous beyond your wildest imaginings, more famous than you are right now as Bulgaria's Seeker. Lose and you will be expelled—after I've beaten you to within an inch of your life."

Krum shuddered. Apparently he both feared and worshipped his dark mentor.

Philip bared his fangs. He had known that Karkaroff was both a bully and a coward, and was not surprised that he was encouraging his student to cheat in the tournament. That was exactly his style. Nor was he shocked to find that Karkaroff used threats of dire punishment to keep his star pupil in line. Phil had known many an armsmaster to do the same at his father's fife. The life and training of a future knight was often harsh and unforgiving.

The vampire was tempted to burst in and accuse them, expose them for the lying dishonorable cheating scum they were, but then he got an even better idea. He smirked, showing all of his fangs. No, he would let them become hoist upon their own petard. He would inform Severus and Harry about Karkaroff's plan and watch Karkaroff's pasty face crumble when he saw that Harry had beaten Krum to the cup. That would be worth all the gold in Gringotts. Cheaters never prosper, fools!

Then he glided away, unseen and undetected by even Karkaroff's wards.

Severus too was not surprised by his old acquaintance's tactics. "I half-expected him to do something of the sort, he's always been a sneak and cheat. He takes the easiest path possible, which was why he joined the Dark One in the first place. And while I don't mind giving him a taste of his own medicine, I think we ought to do something about protecting Krum. Much as I don't like the boy, I don't want to see him abused either. And Igor is just petty and mean enough to do what he threatened."

"But what can we do about it? He's not our student, we won't even see him again once the tournament's over."

"Perhaps we might put a Reverse Violence Charm on him before the ship sails," mused the Potions Master. "It's better than doing nothing."

"Since when are you the savior of abused boys, Sev?"

"Since I adopted Draco and found my son," Severus replied matter-of-factly. "No, before that. If I found a student who showed signs of abuse, I investigated it and helped when I could. Anonymously, sometimes. I lived through that horror, Phil. I will not permit anyone else to do so, if I can prevent it."

"Very well. I supposed it's Christian charity to save the brat's hide. Though from what I see of him, he's not deserving of much." The vampire said cynically.

"Thank you for the warning." Severus said. "I shall tell Harry and Cedric to be on their guard. And Miss Delacouer as well."

"Good. And I shall return to my watcher duties. I have a feeling that Karkaroff's fangs have not all been pulled, and there's something disturbing going on with the Defense Professor as well."

"Mad Eye? He's always been a little off his rocker. He's got plenty of balls and courage though." The Potions Master allowed. "He was once a top Auror."

"Maybe so, but even old soldiers can go bad. I'll keep an eye on him too." Phil said. "But for now, I must beg leave of you, Severus, and hunt."

With that, the vampire vanished and Severus was left staring at an empty space where Phil had been standing. If he hadn't known better, he would have assumed the vampire used magic to disappear. But Phil was no wizard and had only a vampire's superior speed and ability to veil himself from view. But that was formidable enough.

Karkaroff, better watch your back, you dumb twit. Because the darkness has fangs and it would love to drain you dry.

Finally, it was the week before the third task, and Severus and Phil stopped training Harry so hard and told him to rest and relax. Let the other champions sweat and push themselves to exhaustion trying to cram everything they could into their brains before the task. That kind of strategy would only make them nervous and more prone to forget, become sloppy, and make mistakes. Harry had learned the spells and counters and how to think his way past things all during the long weeks leading up to the third task. Now was the time to be calm and collected and let his brain absorb everything. Besides, as Phil said, it would make his competitors nervous, thinking he was so confident he didn't need to study or so arrogant or stupid to bother. Either way, they would be caught off guard.

So in the days leading up to the tournament, Harry took long walks with Cafall and Draco, played chess with Ron, cards with Hermione (non quiz related), and flew with Katie. He had not gotten to spend much time with his girlfriend due to her schedule and her studying for OWLS. But now that was over and she was free to spend time with her beloved Harry.

After a rather wild flight in and out of the trees on the border of the Forbidden Forest, where Katie proved she was just as good of a flyer, and as much of a daredevil, as Harry, they settled down beneath a small beech tree, and Katie put her head in his lap and let him play with her dark hair.

As he ran his fingers sensuously through her tresses, she smiled up at him and said, "You know what I've been thinking?"

"What?"

"I've been thinking about the summer holiday. I think it'd be nice if you came and visited my house. It's on the ocean, and you could stay for a long weekend or something. You and Draco and Professor Snape. I could take you out on my family's charter boat—teach you how to sail and fish and catch crabs. We could have a crab bake on the beach, it'd be really fun. And you could meet my family. What do you think?"

He smiled dreamily into her aqua eyes. "It sounds . . .absolutely fantastic. Maybe we could do that right after we leave school, or a week after, or something." Right then, just imagining the sun and the sand on the shore made him breathless. He could picture Katie in a bikini and the thoughts he had then were sinfully wicked and very very tempting. "I'm sure Dad wouldn't mind going for a bit. I'll ask him once this whole tournament business is over."

A shadow of fear crossed her face. "Harry, this last task sounds really dangerous. I wish . . .sometimes I wish you'd never had to compete. Because then I wouldn't have to worry about you being killed." A single tear slid down her cheek.

"Hey," he gently stroked her face. "I'll be okay. I survived worse." He tapped his scar meaningfully.

"I know. I just . . .it's just so nerve wracking, standing there and waiting for you to come back or come out alive. I hate not being able to help you."

"You do help me, Katie. Just by being there. Knowing you're there helps me focus, helps me remember that I have to beat whatever I'm fighting, so that I can come back home to you. You give me something to hope for and something to strive for. And that's all the help I need."

He dipped his head and brushed his lips against hers. He meant it to be a quick kiss, a chaste peck, but somehow it ended up becoming deep and hot and stealing the breath from his lungs and setting his blood on fire and making him ache with a terrible desire.

When they at last broke off the kiss, both were flushed and panting and grinning like idiots.

"Merlin, but you kiss like a champion, Snape!"

"God, Katie! I love you. And if you keep kissing me like that . . .I just might forget everything my dad ever taught me about minding my manners."

She raised an eyebrow and shifted until she was sitting up, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I'd test that statement, fly boy, but I don't want to shock some firstie to death. Or get expelled for indecent exposure."

He chuckled. "Yeah. And I already have a reputation to live down." His hand traced her cheek. "But someday . . ."

"I know."

She nestled close and they remained that way for a long time, watching as the sun set and enjoying the feeling of being in each other's arms.

June 23rd

The night before the third task:

It was nearly three in the morning, though the sun had not yet risen, when Philip took one last patrol of the castle, as was his wont. He discovered that the light was still on in Moody's office, and wondered what could be keeping the Defense professor up at this hour, when normally all good little wizards were snoozing in their beds. He's not a night owl like myself, so why is he awake at this hour? Planning a surprise for the champions? Or perhaps one champion in particular?

Veiled, the vampire slipped into the office and discovered Moody wide awake and pacing, holding a strange gilt mirror in one hand. He was speaking softly, so as not to be overheard, but he may as well have been shouting, for the vampire's hearing was as acute as . . .well a bat's.

" . . .everything's in place, Wormtail. Tell the Master that I have enchanted the trophy, it will work as a Portkey and take whoever touches it directly to the graveyard. Yes, of course I will make sure that Snape brat touches it, what kind of an idiot do you think I am? And Krum as well, he ought to be ready to take the Mark by now and we can kill two birds with one stone." Moody gave a low chuckle. "Oh, but I have waited years for this—my revenge against all those fools who put me in Azkaban!" His eyes began to shine queerly, and suddenly he reached up and wrenched out the glass eye . . .revealing a perfectly good eye behind it.

Philip froze.

"Ah! Much better. I tell you, Wormy, it's bloody boring playing this part for days on end, pretending to be that bloody bastard who locked me up! Gah! I hate the taste of that potion. But since the Master needed new eyes and ears here after that skulking bastard Snape betrayed him—may he rot in the bowels of hell—I am here! Anything to serve, right, Peter?" A low laugh followed. "My dear mother gave her life so that I might be free, though she never realized how dear old Dad would treat me—keeping me under house arrest! But he'll get his too. Oh, yes, everyone will pay!"

The vampire's fangs were out, as all the pieces suddenly clicked into place. Draco had been right, and so had his earlier suspicions that Moody was not all he seemed. This was the traitor, Voldemort's spy, disguised with magic, watching and waiting his chance to do harm to Philip's nephew. Nyx, Goddess of Night! But I shall not let that happen. Not while I still walk the earth. It was time now to act, and expose the villain for what he was. Phil dropped his veils, his eyes turning red with Hunger.

At that precise moment, however, the false Moody happened to look up at his Foe Glass—the large mirror which reflected enemies coming to attack him from behind, and saw the vampire reflected in it. He whirled, thinking it was someone else.

"Snape!" he spat, his wand out.

"One of them," replied Philip dryly. "You're finished, spy." He smiled toothily.

The false Moody paled. "Vampire!"

"How observant," Phil drawled. "Professor Moody. Except you're not Professor Moody, are you? You're a filthy stinking Death Eater, and therefore fair game for me." He moved then, at lightning speed, and was on the other wizard before he could cast anything.

"Agh! No! Karkaroff, help!" shrilled the other, the mirror falling to the floor.

"Who are you?" Philip hissed, his eyes devouring the other's.

"Crouch. My name is Barty Crouch, junior. Why are you doing this? We could be allies . . .my Master would welcome you . . ." babbled the trapped wizard.

Phil bent his head to feed, but did not bite. "I do not serve the dark, though I walk in shadow, mortal! I yet retain my honor and you have threatened my nephew!" Then he sank his fangs into the other's throat.

Unlike popular myth, he did not precisely drink the blood, so much as his fangs drew it up into his system and he absorbed it. It was ecstasy and agony at the same time, and it had been long since he had drunk the life essence of one so dark. He could feel his prey's terror and pain as he fed and it only served to whet his appetite. He could have made the taking of blood peaceful, but for this one, he chose not to. This one had killed and tortured in the name of his dark master, had destroyed innocent children, he could see it in the other's mind as he fed, the blood establishing a brief psychic connection between them.

There came a noise from behind, but by then he was too deep in bloodlust to heed it, he let anger consume him, something he had not done since he was a newly fledged vampire just beginning to understand what he was. His senses detected another heartbeat, rapid and loud, and he started to turn.

Too late.

He felt something sharp pierce him, and then agony exploded in his chest. He looked down, the wizard still slumped in his hands, and saw a wooden crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest. Staked. I've been . . .staked.

He released Crouch and groped at the bolt, trying to wrest it free, but the agaony was too great. He felt himself sway and then the strength went out of his limbs and he crumpled to the floor.

"I always come prepared," laughed a cold voice above him, as Igor Karkaroff stepped into the room. "There are many vampires near Durmstrang." In his hand was a small handheld crossbow.

"Perfect timing, old friend," gasped Crouch, leaning against the wall. Two bloody pinpricks stood out against his throat. "Is that . . .thing dead?" He accepted the handkerchief Karkaroff handed him and pressed it to the wounds.

"No, but he is . . .immobilized for now," Igor snorted. "Have you never killed a vampire before, young Barty? The stake will keep him frozen, helpless, but then you have to destroy his body."

"Destroy it how? With fire?"

Karkaroff kicked the limp form. "Sometimes. But I prefer the old way. Sunlight. More painful, and he takes longer to die. Who is he?"

Crouch spat. "He says he's a Snape. Figures old Severus would have a vampire in his family tree. He tried to kill me! He heard everything, I was talking with Wormtail when he appeared in the office . . ."

Karkaroff scowled. "You idiot! We must kill him and make sure what he learned remains buried." He flipped the body over. "If he is very old, as I think, then he may have a sunstone in his possession."

"A sunstone?"

"An amulet that will allow him to walk in daylight without harm. Rare, but the old ones usually acquire them after a few centuries." Karkaroff groped about Phil's collar and withdrew the sunstone pendant. "Ah ha! As I thought. Smash this and he will be weakened and the sun shall burn him."

Barty eyed the pendant as his partner yanked it over Phil's head. "How do we do that?"

"Tsk. Tsk. Your education has been rather one sided, hasn't it?" chided the other. "Do you not know the Shattering Charm?" Karkaroff pointed his wand at the sunstone pendant, which lay upon the desk, and spoke three words.

A red beam of light shot out of his wand and when it touched the pendant, it made it explode into a thousand shards instantly.

The vampire upon the floor of the office writhed and groaned as the magic that had protected him from the sun was no more. In spite of his dormant state, he could feel the change in time and knew the sun would rise soon. He was helpless against the life-giving rays now, and while it would not kill him instantly, it would cause him to burn horribly until at last he perished from the pain and need for blood.

"Now what? He seems like he's dying already." There was a note of satisfaction in the fake Moody's voice, as well as shimmering in his eyes.

"No. He needs the sun to truly perish, if he is an old one." Karkaroff disagreed. "Open the curtains over the window there. When the sun rises and shines through, then you'll see some fireworks, all right. We shouldn't have long to wait."

Once Crouch the Younger had done as ordered, the two diabolical wizards sat down to wait, watching the supine vampire eagerly. Had Philip been awake, he would have said the two resembled people watching a witch burning several centuries past, all eager to see a heretic die.

"I'm feeling a bit faint," Crouch muttered. "Must be the blood loss." He moved to his chest of potions and took a Blood Replenisher. "There! That's better! I can't wait to see the deader burn!"

"Nosferatu! Abomination!" Igor growled and kicked the helpless vampire again, hearing something crack as he did so.

In twenty minutes the sun shone over the horizon and the first rays of the dawn trickled into the office. Barty and Igor had dragged Philip over near the window and left him there and as the sunlight slipped into the room, he began to burn.

First his skin reddened, like a sunburn, then as the minutes went by, the burn deepened until it was like getting burnt by boiling water, then it began to blacken, as if someone had stuck him into a fire. Tendrils of smoke began to rise from the vampire, and he twitched and whimpered. He could not move much, though he longed to thrash about in agony, and his whole world was filled with fire and a terrible hunger.

"Look! He's going up like a firework!" cheered Crouch Junior, sounding very much like a cruel child watching a bullfight.

Karkaroff grinned nastily, but said nothing, content to simply bear witness to the destruction of the vampire.

After about fifteen minutes, Philip was burned black and ceased to move or twitch.

"Is he dead?"

"No. We must wait till he turns to ash to be sure," Karkaroff said.

"How long will that take?"

"Not too long."

"I'm going to need some more Polyjuice Potion soon, this dose is wearing off." Crouch the Younger sighed. He rose and went to a trunk that had many locks and latches upon it and flipped them rapidly while muttering a countercharm under his breath. Then he tossed the lid open and floated a chained Mad Eye Moody up and cut off a hunk of his hair. The chained wizard growled at him viciously like a dog.

The imposter laughed and patted him on the head. "Good dog, Moody." Then he threw the wizard back down into the bottom of the trunk.

He moved over to the same potions case and took out a vial of disgusting black sludge and added the hair to it and stirred. Then he drained the contents. "Faugh! I will be glad when I no longer have to take that shit and can be myself again." He wiped his mouth, put the hair into the case and shut it. "How's our crispy critter coming? Nicely browned, I hope!"

Before Igor could reply, there came a knock at the door. "Who the bloody hell?" hissed Barty Junior, panicked.

"Alastor? Are you in there? I need to ask you a question?" came the voice of Hogwart's Headmaster.

The two exchanged horrified glances.

"Quick! Put him in the trunk!" Karkaroff cried. "We can finish it later, he's probably gone now anyway."

They picked up the corpse and threw it into the trunk, and the imposter hissed, "Some company for you, Alastor! I hear dead men tell no tales, so fess up!" Then he shut the trunk and locked it.

The knocking came again. "Alastor?"

"Just a minute, Albus." The fake Moody called. He quickly popped in the magical eye and then strode to the door. "Come in, old friend. Igor and I were just going over the final stages of the gauntlet, making sure everything is in place."

"How marvelous." Dumbledore declared. Then he wrinkled his nose. "My goodness, but I smell something burning."

"Ah, that would be me. I was trying to light a candle and my hair caught fire for a moment."

"Ah . . .I have had the same thing happen to me . . .Good morning, Igor, I hope you are feeling well?"

"Yes, Dumbledore, I am fine," said the Headmaster of Durmstrang, putting on a fake smile.

"Excellent! Well, I wanted your opinion on these robes, do they make me look too shabby?"

The two dark wizards both rolled their eyes in tandem.

Several hours later:

He was burning . . .burning alive . . .and then . . .cooling darkness . . .darkness that would hide and heal him . . .slowly Philip Anthony Snape returned to consciousness. He had sustained horrible damage that would have killed a made vampire, but because of his nature and age, he was still alive. It was dark, but Phil's vampire eyes could see in perpetual night, and they widened and glowed a deep red.

Next to him he could hear something stir and turned his head to see. A warm reddish outline was revealed to his infravision, and he could hear the steady rapid beat of a human heart. Licking his lips, he said hoarsely, "Who . . .is . . .there? Help . . ."

He heard shuffling and a thump, then a low voice cried, "Good flaming bollocks! You're a talking corpse!"

"No . . .not dead yet . . .help . . ." Philip rasped, feeling his fangs run out. He needed blood badly, the infusion he'd taken from the traitor had not been enough to heal him. not after what had happened. "Crossbow bolt . . ."

"They shot you with a crossbow bolt?"

"Yes . . .need to take it out . . ."

"You want me to take it out? That's dangerous. You could die," objected Alastor.

Philip gave a soft chuckle then moaned. "Just . . .do it . . .I'm halfway gone already . . ." He knew once the stake was removed he could heal quicker and would not be in so much pain.

"How? I can't exactly see."

Phil forced his hand to move, and grasp the other's. He guided Moody's hand to the bolt. "There. Feel it? Now . . .take it out."

Alastor sighed. "All right, but don't blame me if you die. Brace yourself."

Groping, Alastor found the other's chest and put one hand upon it and the other gripped the bolt. Then he pulled in one quick motion.

Phil's back arched and he half-screamed as the bolt slid free. Then he collapsed back onto the floor, panting. He had forgotten how much a stake, or bolt, had hurt.

"You okay?"

"I . . .will . . ." Then Phil lapsed back into unconsciousness.

He woke a little before evening, disorientated and starving. Sleep and the removal of the bolt had helped somewhat, but he was still very weak and his craving for blood was unendurable. He was consumed by the Hunger, it was no longer an annoyance, no longer an impulse to be held in check by strength of will, it was a beast raging out of control, a fire devouring everything in its path. He felt his grip on reality slip, his reason become overwhelmed by his terrible thirst. He held onto his sense of self by the barest of inches, hanging on by his fingernails over the endless abyss.

I am Lord Philip Anthony Snape. I am Lord Philip Anthony Snape. And I . . .will . . .not . . .be controlled . . .by instinct!

"Awake, are you? Thought for a minute you were . . ." grunted Alastor.

Philip licked his lips. "No. Not yet. Hard . . .to kill . . ."

Dark wings beat at him, pounding his identity with the relentless force of ocean waves. But Philip had not lived millennia without developing a will of steel. The Hunger was almost beyond the bounds of tolerance, pushing the line between human and beast. But he still had a thimble's worth of control left. He took a breath.

"You . . .might want . . .to move away from me . . ." he warned. "I'm not . . .safe . . ."

"Not safe? You're half dead, boy. And I'm chained up like a mad beast. Can't really move."

Philip shuddered. "Don't . . .understand . . .I'm . . .a vampire . . .and . . .I'm . . . Hungry . . .!" His eyes burned a lurid red in the darkness, glowing like the pits of hell.

Alastor gasped and shrank back as far as he could. "Merlin's arse! So this is how that punk plans to be rid of me!"

Philip gulped hard. "They thought I was dead . . .but a Born Vampire is hard to kill . . ."

He imagined his fangs sinking deep into mortal flesh, drinking deeply of the elixir of life, draining the poison from Hogwarts in a thousand rapturous swallows. He held that image in his mind—of killing Barty Junior—using it like a talisman to ward off the snarling Beast within.

"Born, not made?"

"Yes . . .My name is Philip Anthony Snape . . .and I am not a dark follower . . .I am allied with the Queen of the Seelie Court. . .on a mission to protect my nephew . . . Harry Albus Snape . . ."

"You're Severus Snape's brother?"

"No . . .ancestor . . ." Philip sucked in air. The smell of Moody's blood was so tantalizing he could feel himself drooling. He grimaced in disgust. The mind rules. My mind rules. "Must warn him . . ."

"Warn him about what?"

Slowly, Philip told him what the two dark wizards had been plotting.

"Took you from behind, eh?" said Alastor sympathetically. "Did the same to me, the bullying coward! Knocked me out with the trash bin lid and when I woke up he was ripping off my hair and took my wooden leg and my eye. Kept me locked up here like an animal, giving me just enough food and air to keep me breathing. What I wouldn't give to wrap my hands about his skinny little neck and snap it! He fooled us all!"

"I could break those chains, if . . .I were stronger . . ." Phil said. "But the sun weakened me . . .and now I need blood . . ."

There was silence after that statement. Then Alastor said quietly, "How much?"

"No . . .not from you . . .I feed only on the evil doer . . ."

"That's a choice though that you don't have now," he pointed out pragmatically.

Phil shook his head. "I will not feed . . .off of you . . .took an oath . . .to never feed upon an innocent . . .for a thousand years I have kept it." He felt the Hunger rising deep in his throat, and he struggled to keep it at bay.

"Listen, Philip. I ain't no innocent, haven't been for a long time. Way I see it, the only way we're gonna get out of here and kick some arse is if we work together. I got something you need . . .and I'm willing to share it with you . . .I ain't too fond of vampires, but . . .the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Philip hesitated. "I . . .am not sure I can trust myself . . .It's been a long time since I was injured this badly . . .I might take too much . . ."

"Can you do it in stages? I have a little water and some dried beef here to eat."

Philip sighed. He had to get free of this prison and the only way to do that was to take Moody at his word and even though he hated drinking the blood of a decent person, he had no choice. He had to warn Severus and Harry. "Very well. Give me your wrist. You will feel very little . . .it will not be painful . . ."

"You mean, you don't feel like you're dying . . .?"

"Not unless I wish it. All you'll feel is sleepy." Phil accepted the wrist Moody held out. He flipped the arm over, hearing the pulse of Alastor's blood thundering in his ears. Then he lowered his mouth and began to feed.

The blood shot through him like a bolt of supercharged energy and he could feel his tissues start to restore themselves. He drank eagerly, though he did attempt to maintain some semblance of control. After fifteen minutes he wrenched himself away, despite the siren call still screaming in his head. "Alastor? How are you feeling?"

"Tired, a bit. You?"

"Better." Philip said. "Eat something and drink. I shall continue in twenty minutes."

He heard Moody groping and then chewing upon some beef and drinking a beaker of stale water.

Twenty minutes later, Philip resumed feeding. This time the blood had a more obvious effect, and his burnt skin healed before his eyes. His strength returned gradually and the red faded from his eyes, returning them to his normal violet color. It was less of a struggle now to relinquish Alastor's arm.

They repeated the procedure a third time, and by then Philip was nearly back to his old self again.

"I just thought of something. Even if you do bust us out, how can you go out in the sunlight?"

"It's nearly sunset now."

"How do you know that?"

"After so many sunsets . . .I know, Alastor." Philip said dryly. "The sun shall set in twenty-five minutes."

They rested for awhile and then Philip took Moody's chains in his hands and ripped them apart. The links shattered like paper and for the first time in months, Moody was free. But he was weakened from his long captivity as well as the blood donation and could barely stand up.

"The sun is almost down," Philip remarked. "A few more minutes and I can get you out of here. We'll need to hurry, the tournament starts soon."

"Get me out of here and let me get my wand and I'll show that upstart who's the real Moody." Alastor growled.

At that precise moment, the sun set. Phil could feel it in his bones. "Alastor, it's time." He reached for the other wizard and lifted him into his arms. Then he concentrated, and his large black wings grew from his shoulders. With his newfound strength surging through him, Philip launched himself upwards. He hovered in the air just below the trunk lid, holding Alastor in one arm while he smashed through the trunk with the other.

Magic sizzled over him as he shattered the wood, but the spells were designed to affect a human, not a vampire, and Philip ignored it and continued breaking apart the trunk until he emerged from the depths like an avenging angel, his violet eyes bright with the fires of war.

He settled down on the ground, still holding the one-legged wizard. "Alastor, what do you need?"

"Blood Replenisher, maybe a Magical Restorative."

"Stay here." Philip went and began to search the office. He soon located the potion case and found what Alastor needed.

After gulping them down, Alastor Summoned his wand to him, it was in the bottom of the desk, and then he fashioned himself a new leg out of the chair leg and strapped it on. "Okay. Let's go and catch us a skulking little cockroach."

Philip bared his fangs. "With pleasure, Alastor." He flexed his wings. "Care for a ride?"

The old Auror laughed. "Sure you can handle it, Nightwalker?"

"Does a zombie eat brains?"

Moody pulled on a spare cloak to cover his patched and ripped clothing and then Philip lifted him up, kicked out the window, and flew off into the gloaming.

Hope you all enjoyed this chapter!

Please check out the conclusion of Two Hawks Hunting if you haven't done so, I have finally completed that!

Next: The third task occurs. And something else happens to Draco.


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