An Inconvenient Truth

old-crow

Chapter 020

Back

Next

Index


… - …

Chapter Twenty

Going Rogue

Monday 26 June

Madame Pomfrey had been right about Harry, except for one small thing - He wasn't almost at the point of physical and magical collapse. He was well past both. He'd slept for nearly two days. Amelia balanced out the sleep equation by not sleeping for the same period. If she were honest with herself, she couldn't sleep because of her concern for Harry. But she was tough enough and disciplined enough that she kept herself in control, more or less.

Pomfrey confirmed that Dumbledore's death was due to the effects of the curse he had endured those many months ago, so that fork of the investigation was closed. That left the events of the third task to deal with. Amelia thanked all she held holy that she had gotten that memory from Harry as soon as he reappeared after escaping the cemetery. Anna and Connie were able to match the physical evidence they had gathered perfectly with the horrific scenes from Harry's memory.

There had been no progress on the man Tonks had chased. Moody was their only hope for a lead or identification, but he was still unconscious and even Pomfrey wasn't sure about his prognosis. That part of the investigation was stalled and unless Moody improved enough to help, could prove fruitless.

It was this last gloomy thought that overwhelmed Amelia. The endless cups of coffee and PepperUp potions were finally no longer a match for her fatigue and despair. About tea time on Monday, she blinked her eyes closed just to rest them, and had to be levitated before he sleeping body hit the floor. Pomfrey floated her gently out of the small conference room she had commandeered in the Hospital Wing and put her on the bed next to Harry's.

A few hours later, Harry woke. His two days of slumber had recharged his core and his body, so he came to, almost at once, with no period of drowsiness as he wakened. He immediately began searching for his glasses and wand. His glasses he found at once on the nightstand bedside.

As soon as he put them on, he forgot about his wand. Instead, he was entirely focused on Amelia. He was inflating his lungs to scream for Pomfrey when he heard her voice announce, "She's just sleeping, Mr. Potter. She's been awake the entire time you slept, right up until an hour ago when she collapsed from exhaustion. She'll be just fine after a bit of sleep," the wise old healer counseled.

Harry spun around to stare in Pomfrey's eyes. "How long have I slept," he asked.

"Nearly two days, this time."

"Where's Susan?"

Pomfrey cast a quick Tempus and replied, "Just finishing supper, most likely. Are you hungry?"

Harry was worried half to death. Voldemort was back, Amelia was unavailable, Cedric—well, he'd seen Cedric's injuries and he didn't see Cedric in the Hospital Wing, so he assumed the worst. Despite all that, his stomach growled aggressively. It made him grin wryly.

"I guess I am. Can I go down and eat?" he asked.

Poppy considered his question and the circumstances for a moment and replied, "Medically, yes. I know you hate it here and would much rather go down to eat. However, you'll be mobbed, and if Amelia wakes and you're gone, she'll hex me first and ask questions later. Much later. Could you let me have the elves bring you something to eat here? From her pattern the past two days, I'm certain Susan and Hermione won't be long getting back here. They stayed as long as Amelia would let them all the while you were out."

This time, Harry's grin was wide and not wry at all. "OK. I don't fancy a crowd just yet."

"I shouldn't wonder," replied Pomfrey.

An hour later, a now fed and comforted Harry was desperately trying to get more information about Cedric, but no one would give him a straight answer. Susan simply didn't know. He had learned that Cedric had been taken straight to St. Mungo's after his escape from the graveyard, but no one would tell him anything beyond that. Harry's temper was beginning to rattle tables and chairs when Amelia finally woke up.

"Harry?"

"Amelia!" "Auntie!" cried two voices in unison.

But not for long: "What about Cedric?"

Amelia's face fell and Harry screamed "No!" in anguish. Amelia took his hand in one of hers and turned his face to hers with the other.

"He is still alive, Harry. But his situation is…" she faltered.

"He's dying, isn't he?"

"No one knows, Harry. He's alive. Let's leave it at that. We'll know more tomorrow."

Harry's eyes widened in shock. He'd had enough experience with magical injuries and medicine that of all the possible answers to his question, this one was the most unexpected he could imagine.

"What? How can…" he stuttered, not understanding even what question he was trying to ask.

Amelia cut across him, "He was dying when he got to St. Mungo's. They put him in stasis and tried to find a way to save him. They found a way that has never been tried and they had no choices, so they used it. He hasn't died, but he hasn't awakened and no one knows whether he will. If he does, no one knows whether he will be himself. He was without blood for a long time."

"How's Professor Moody?"

Amelia explained how the old Auror had been captured and held prisoner, impersonated for months by some, as yet, unknown man. She told him how Connie and Anna had found him, along with batches of half-made Polyjuice potion in his living quarters.

Harry sank back into his bed, his joyful reunions with Susan and Amelia lost in the guilt over Cedric's uncertain fate and Moody's injury. Susan and Amelia exchanged glances. They knew Harry well enough to know his reaction, but they weren't sure how to help him past it. "Damn those Dursleys," they both thought to themselves.

Harry rolled over and closed his eyes. It was late but his agitation over Cedric would keep sleep far from him tonight. Still, he pretended because he just couldn't bear to talk about it.

He fooled no one.

Amelia, Susan and Hermione finally left later that night. About half two in the morning, Harry's bladder needed attention, so he got up and made his way to the loo on the floor. On his way back, he heard Moody's cracked and ragged voice.

"No Albus. No, no, no. No, please, don't say that. I tried, I tried so hard to resist. Three of them casting it all at once and they overwhelmed me. I know," and here his ruined voice became a wailing moan, "I know I failed. Didn't maintain vigilance. Failed you. Failed order. Failed everyone. Can't even die to stop the bastard. Tried and tried. Ruined my leg so his potion was no good. Can't die. No weapon here. Can't die…."

Harry stood transfixed. He heard the guilt and shame and anguish in the tough old Auror's voice and it tore at him. Three casting "it" at once. Harry was betting it was Imperius that had overwhelmed the old warhorse. He had heard snatches of conversations about Moody's injuries and the universal hatred everyone who had seen him felt for whoever had so cruelly tortured and abused the old curmudgeon. Now, from what Harry had gathered, he had done it himself to sabotage a Polyjuice potion.

Harry was struck by two things: First, it was a brilliant stroke for a prisoner to cast. Second, it must have been agonizing and must have required incredible courage. Harry was torn between seeing it as a Slytherin masterstroke of cunning and a Gryffindor masterpiece of courage. But it sounded like Moody was still trying to die…

Harry called, "Mad-Eye!"

"Albus?"

"Mad-Eye, wake up!"

Moody started, but Harry had no idea whether he was awake. His magical eye was on the nightstand and his real eye was bandaged closed.

"Mad-Eye!"

"What? Who?" croaked the warrior.

"It's Harry, Mad-Eye," he replied.

"Harry?" echoed Moody.

"Yeah. Skinny kid, bad hair, glasses, scar. You've seen pictures," Harry snarked.

"Harry. Where am I?"

"Hogwarts. Hospital Wing. Been here a few days, I reckon."

"When is it?" Moody babbled.

"Not quite three," replied a bewildered Harry.

"No. Date."

"Um, well, I don't know, exactly. I've been sort of out of it myself. The third event of the tournament is over. I've been here since then. Been about two days now, I think. They tell me you've been here the whole time I have."

"So it's what, June?"

"Think so. Don't think it's July yet."

"So how did you get hurt? Why are you here?" demanded the Auror.

Harry thought about that a long while. He knew this was the real Mad-Eye. He'd been here far too long to be Polyjuiced, and Pomfrey's continuous scans would have detected that potion instantly. He replied, "It's quite a story. But I'll make you a deal. You tell me what happened to you, and I'll tell you what happened to me."

There was no response from the old Auror.

"Mad-Eye?"

"Yeah."

"You were talking in your sleep. Everyone has wanted to choke whoever tortured you so badly, but you said you did it yourself. You said you wanted to die and you can't. So talk to me. Can't see any good reason for you to die, myself, so I wonder why you want to."

"You wouldn't understand, Potter. I screwed up. I failed Albus. He told me so himself. He won't even speak to me anymore. I let a Death Eater run loose here. There's no telling what evil he did while pretending to be me."

Harry sighed, "Wrong there, Mad-Eye. I know what he did. And you didn't talk to Professor Dumbledore. You were unconscious when they found you and you only just now woke up." Harry had heard of Dumbledore's death, but wasn't eager to break that to the old man.

"But he was talking to me just now! Damnit! Where's my eye? Did that effen bastard steal it?"

Harry spoke again, firmly, "Mad-Eye. He wasn't here. I went to the loo and heard you talking in your sleep. Your eye is on the nightstand to your right. See for yourself."

Moody attached the odd device and looked at the nightstand and was surprised to see a group of get well cards neatly arranged. Most of them appeared to be from students. The effen bastard that impersonated him appeared to be a popular instructor. Moody asked, "What was the password phrase that we used together?"

Harry smiled and recalled, "You would mention dragonhide."

The old Auror nodded and added, "You would mention a wandholster."

Harry smiled again, and acknowledged, "I've got quite a tale to tell you about that, too." Drowsiness returned to him and he added, "Let's talk more in the morning." He walked back to his bed.

However, sleep didn't come easily to Moody. The hunger for revenge burned inside him. He remained in his bed and silently plotted, as he quietly flexed his arms and leg to judge how much muscle and range of motion he'd lost in the last ten months.

… - …

Tuesday 27 June

Alastor awoke later than was his normal routine. Then he remembered that for the last ten months or so, he hadn't had a routine - only darkness and stench. The first person that he looked for was Potter. Somehow, he felt comparatively safe and less angry when the teen was at his side. His curtains were drawn to give him an element of privacy, but he could hear the lad talking with Amelia and Pomfrey.

Moody sat up and apparently had made enough noise to alert the Master Healer, who opened his curtain enough to walk in and look at him. She admonished, "Where do you think you're going, Alaster?"

Moody replied, "Won't know till I get there, but I was thinking the WC and to find Potter."

Recognizing that Moody was a grown man, not a student, she asked, "Would you like some assistance?"

Moody shook his head and gruffly replied, "No Ma'am." Moving his good leg into position and feeling no pain, he added, "But thank you. Where's Potter?"

Harry heard him and called, "I'm here, Mad-Eye; the same as last night. There's breakfast out here, so we don't have to go to the Great Hall."

Amelia had a thoughtful expression on her face, but didn't say anything. Alastor and Harry had both been held captive against their will and in their own way, tortured. Maybe they were good for each other right now.

Moody strapped on his leg, fitted his eye and searched for his wand. There wasn't one on the nightstand. He'd hoped that his best stuff was still in the secret compartment of his trunk. Silently cursing the little shite, he stood up and took a few tentative steps. Poppy reached to aid him, but Moody waved her off, cursing.

Amelia gave Harry a meaningful look and looked in the direction of the closed curtain. Harry, who was dressed, got up and offered, "Let's walk over there together. He held out his bandaged arm. Moody nodded and reached for Harry's shoulder. Together, they made their way.

… - …

Four hours later, the old Auror was exhausted. He'd met with Amelia, Kingsley, Connie, and Anna, and Tonks - always with Harry by his side.

Rufus was in and out during the day but had to keep going back to the Ministry to meet with the Wizengamot and sign papers. The arrests from Monday had created budget opportunities, and it was his plan to turn the newly created vacancies in the various administrative departments into additional staff positions in the Auror group. It

was only a handful of positions, but until additional funding could be found, it at least represented a change in the right direction. He'd just returned.

Moody carefully watched Harry's memory of the graveyard, and then he watched it a second time. He asked Connie, "Did you identify the scum and pick them up?"

Un-offended by the gruff comment, she replied, "We identified about half of the people and have been looking for them. To date, we've caught Waldon Mcnair from Dangerous Creatures, Sylvia Edgecomb and Elizabeth Dolohov from Magical Travel and Dolohov's sister's son, Max who worked with Ludo Bagman in Games." She handed him the list and said, "These are the other people we've identified."

Moody looked at it and replied, "Add Mrs. Antonin Dolohov and her son Peter, Thorfin Rowe, Fenrir Greyback, Alecto Carrows and her brother Amycus to your list. The big guy to the right of Antonin Dolohov might have been Flint's kid. The small person by Mcnair might have been his wife or his sister."

"No, his sister was killed a year ago in Hamburg," added Anna.

Almost as an afterthought, Harry asked, "Where are my wands?"

Connie gave Amelia an odd look, received a nod back and replied, "Here is your spare wand. We found the remains of your other one at the graveyard. It had been shattered."

Harry demanded, "Where was the other one?"

Anna started, "Harry, You-Know-Who…

Harry interrupted her, "Riddle's wand. I took it from him. I reckon he's lost it to me twice now. I want it."

Connie gave Scrimgeour a meaningful look and he replied, "Give it to him."

She opened the evidence bag that she had in her satchel, gingerly picked it up and handed it to the angry teen.

Harry held it in his hand, and remembered the long told conversation "The phoenix that gave that feather, gave just one other feather…"

Harry thought as hard as he could about the amazing creature that had long befriended Dumbledore. Seconds later, there was the heartening sound of phoenix song and Fawkes appeared with a flash of fire.

Anna, looked at the remarkable bird and proclaimed, "Merlin, how did you do that?"

Harry wasn't listening. Instead, he was intently looking Fawkes in the eye, as if to convey a message. For perhaps half of a minute, neither broke eye contact. Suddenly, Fawkes, gave a leap and with wings flapping, hovered in the air in front of Harry. Seconds later, two tail feathers fluttered into the air and with Harry's seeker reflexes, he grabbed them and set them on the table next to him. The beautiful bird seemed to nod at Harry again, and he picked up Riddle's wand again with both hands, and with a loud crack, snapped it in two pieces. A moment later, he tossed the pieces into the lit fireplace.

While Anna began her protest about the illegal destruction of evidence, Scrimgeour patted Harry on the shoulder and announced, "Well played, Harry. That abomination of a wand will never cast a dark spell again."

Amelia suggested, "We can take those over to Ollivander next Tuesday and have him make you a pair of proper replacement wands."

Rufus directed, "It's time to lift the news black-out. Anna, you can release some of the photographs that you've taken on Wednesday. Between them, the names of the known Death Eaters, Fudge's death and Dumbledore's memorial, they'll have quite enough to work with for a few days. We'll put an ordinary piece of transfigured wood back on display at the ministry."

Harry suggested, "See who goes after it this time. Riddle will probably send the rat after it a second time."

Tonks came in as they were talking and asked, "Who was the straw colored hair man who ran away from school wearing your duster, Sir?" While waiting for his reply, she felt in her robe pocket and handed Moody his flask, adding, "This is yours, Sir."

Moody took it from her outstretched hand, opened it and sniffed. Even after washing it out several times, the faint aroma of Polyjuice potion was still recognizable. Once a prized possession, Moody was ready to bin it, when inspiration hit with Tonks' question.

Moody muttered, "I'll take care of it."

Anna made the mistake of pressing him and asked, "What was his name?"

Moody slammed down his water glass and shouted, "God Damn It, I said I'll take care of it!"

Kingsley stood up and said, "The drinking lamp has to be lit somewhere. Let's call this discussion paid and go hoist a few."

As they got up to enjoy a beverage or two, Amelia remembered her son's flash of anger, recalled that he'd been forced to kill several men and vowed to find someone to allow him to talk about it for as long as he wanted.

… - …

At St. Mungo's, an older woman who bore more than a passing resemblance to Connie Hammer walked into the conference room where Amos and Florence Diggory were waiting. She introduced herself, "Good afternoon. I'm the head of healing at St. Mungos, Alice Crabtree. On behalf of all of the emergency room staff, I'd like to thank you for allowing us to attempt such a radical treatment option with your son, Cedric. As you may know, cadaver organ harvesting and transplanting is not a procedure that has been previously attempted at St. Mungo's. However, it's a fairly common technique used in treating the most serious cases in the non-magical world."

Florence nodded politely, but what she really was looking for was a straight-forward prognosis about her son.

Crabtree continued, "The standard treatment methods, consisting primarily of administering a series of healing potions were not available in your son's case, because his intestinal damage was such that absorption of the potions administered orally would have been completely ineffective. Also, due to the nature of his wounds, his body was simply bleeding faster than whole blood could be administered."

While both Diggorys believed that they understood Crabtree's explanations up through this point, neither knew where she was going, but both felt that they were about to hear bad news.

Crabtree continued, "While there are many uncertainties remaining regarding your son's condition, we are fairly certain of several things. Due to the severe amount of blood loss, his brain doubtless received some damage due to oxygen deficiency. Should your son regain consciousness, he will most likely exhibit either short-term memory loss, long-term memory loss, loss of motor skills, loss of speech function, or some combination.

Florence wrapped her arms around her husband and began sobbing. Amos - uncharacteristically silent, waited for Crabtree to finish.

"It is our hope that whatever symptom would manifest itself, that it would be minor and temporary."

Amos asked, "How long… I mean… when is he likely to wake up?"

Crabtree replied, "He's on an enriched oxygen charm course of treatment right now. I'd like to keep him on it for another three days to give his brain every chance to heal before he regains consciousness. In other words, there are treatment options that we can offer him while he's asleep that we can't when he's awake. I know that the waiting is very stressful for you both, but everyone here wants your son to walk out of here with you by the end of July."

Those words made sense to the distraught couple, and they wept tears of happiness.

… - …

Harry, Susan and Hermione had made a brief appearance in the Great Hall for Dinner. Between the gawkers and the large minority of students who believed that Harry had somehow caused Cedric's grievous injuries, it was a very uncomfortable experience.

Hermione suggested, "Harry, you don't have to say anything, just be seen. You didn't do anything wrong."

A lot louder than he probably intended, Harry replied, "I kil…'

Susan clamped her hand over his mouth and pressed her lips to his face, whispering, "Shhhh… Don't say anything."

Fortunately, the only person close enough to hear him was Colin, who was too busy readying his camera.

Flash!

Harry gave the young teen an indulgent look, but it lightened the mood.

… - …

Amelia excused herself and went to Dumbledore's office with Connie and Anna. They unsealed the door, which had been locked after Poppy had removed Dumbledore's body. Fawkes' perch was unoccupied and all of the portraits appeared to be sleeping.

Anna noticed that there were three sealed crystal vials on the old headmaster's desk. Two of the strands appeared to be shorter than normal.

Connie suggested, "There's no better way of finding out than having a look. They opened the first vial and allowed the silver content to swirl into the stone basin. It was an image of Lucius Malfoy looking at the diary while in Dumbledore's office with Harry in the office with him.

The second image was of a younger Bellatrix and a brief image of Hufflepuff's cup.

The final image was of an older, probably seventh year student and a brief image of Slytherin's locket.

"Who is that?" asked Connie?

"I don't know," admitted Amelia.

"Let me see that again," remarked Anna.

They started it again, and stopped the image. It was young man, about seventeen, wearing Slytherin robes. He was thin, well dressed, and had clean, longish, straight jet black hair. Anna remarked, "He was two years behind me, but I believe that was Regulus Black. He hung around with Barty Crouch Junior. They were in the same year, except Crouch was in Ravenclaw."

Connie remarked, "Let's call Rufus. I think he was handling that case."

Amelia threw in a bit of floo powder and called, "Minister of Magic's office"

Twenty-five minutes later, Scrimgeour announced, "I believe that we have our connection to Slytherin's locket."

Anna nodded and after a few minutes discussion, suggested, "It seems that Sirius is our only connection to Regulus."

Connie made eye contact with Amelia, who admitted, "And our best connection to Sirius is Harry."

Amelia suggested, "Please check the old records and see if you can find out where Regulus lived. I believe that we need to schedule a hearing for Sirius as soon as possible."

… - …

After dinner, McGonagall was walking around, delivering the payroll. She stopped at Moody's door and knocked, calling, "Alastor?"

She could hear the sounds of the sofa being moved as if someone were looking for something. A moment passed before Moody's gravelly voice replied, "I'm busy. Come back later."

More than a little offended, she walked down the hallway to Sinistra's rooms.

… - …

About eight, Moody made his way back to the hospital wing. Harry had elected to sleep there for the remainder of the school year. Going through an inquisition from his well meaning, but overly inquisitive house mates was not on his list of things of enjoyable things to do.

Susan and Hermione reluctantly left when the old Auror shuffled into the room and made it clear that he had "official stuff" to discuss with Potter.

Harry opened a couple bottles of butterbeer that Susan had smuggled in for him. He offered one to Alastor, who begrudgingly took it, though by habit, he waited for Harry to take a swig out of his before doing the same.

Moody declared, "That was a good trick today with the phoenix. It was an even better move, snapping Snake Face's wand. Fudge never should have insisted that they be kept on display."

Harry nodded in agreement and asked, "What are you going to do this summer?"

Moody considered his reply for a minute and replied, "I have some old friends to catch up with and then I'd like to help train you up a bit. You did well in the graveyard. You kept your head. You had a good eye for detail and you had a plan in place if things went pear shaped. You tore some of the scum up that night, you know. Its likely most of them died."

Distressed by the man's bluntness, Harry began, "I didn't mean to…"

Moody shook off Potter's protest, replying, "Of course you did. Better them than you. Pettigrew didn't think twice about tearing Amos' boy up. Snake Face didn't blink before casting a killing curse at you. It's a war, Harry. Age doesn't play into it – you were conscripted before your time, and I'll never get to retire from it. It's just the way it is."

Harry nodded in acknowledgement of the truth in the old warrior's words.

Moody continued, "The big mistake was putting Fudge in place. The man probably never had an original thought in his life. Dumbledore played him like a marionette; at the same time Malfoy paid him to talk out of the other side of his mouth."

Harry didn't say anything, but it felt nice to be treated like an adult. Apparently May-Eye felt that he'd paid his dues.

The old auror drained his bottle, got up and said, "Good night, Potter."

Harry replied, "You too, Mad-Eye."

… - …

By Wednesday the NEWT examinations had all been finished and were being graded.

After lunch, Amelia took Harry, McGonagall, Susan and Hermione to Percy's burial service. Aside from the Weasleys, they were the only ones there. After the brief service, Susan and Hermione went to talk with Ron and Ginny, while Harry went to talk with Fred and George.

Harry started to say, "I'm sorry about…" but George shook his head.

Fred declared, "Harry, Percy was a bigheaded prick, on his best day. Whether they were spelled to do it, or not, Crouch could do no wrong in our brother's eyes. Perce had no friends – he'd probably step all over Dad to get one extra promotion. Mr. Crouch says… Mr. Crouch wants…. Two fanatics with lit fuses if you ask me."

Harry asked, "Will your dad be okay?"

George replied, "Bill thinks so. Everybody knows Dad, who he is, and what he believes."

Pulling Harry closer, Fred asked, "Is he-who-must-not-be-named really back, Harry?"

In an equally low voice, Harry nodded and replied, "He's back. It was Pettigrew who tried to kill Cedric. Voldemort's back, and he called his Death Eaters back that night. Voldemort murdered one of them, and then he challenged me to a duel. He blew up my wand, and then I stole his and probably killed two or three of the Death Eaters before escaping back to Hogwarts. That's what happened, but, yeah, he's back. Oh, and call him Riddle if you want. Tom Riddle's his real name. Lord Voldemort is just some made up crap that he invented when he was still at Hogwarts."

After Harry left, Fred relayed Harry's account to Charlie and Bill.

George added, "Susan saw the wands that Harry had with him when he got back to Hogwarts after the third task. One of them wasn't his."

Catching the tail-end of a conversation that he wasn't really invited in to, Ron demanded, "Why should Harry get to have two wands?"

Fred rebuked, "Because you gormless twit, "He's got a dark lord after him. Learn from your mistakes, Ronnikins and don't end up friendless, like Percy. Stop being jealous of Harry and learn to be your own guy. He told us that he probably had to kill a couple of Death Eaters in order to get away that night. What would you have done – challenged him to a chess game? Grow up, Ron. Harry's got his life and you've got yours. Make the best of yours. Play your cards right over the summer and maybe Lavender will let you…"

"Enough of that," called Mrs. Weasley, who could always read Ron's red face like a thermometer and somehow knew when to intercede – even from across the garden.

'Or not,' doubted George.

… - …

Harry stood with the other two Champions as Madam Maxine gave her presentation at the Leaving Ceremony. She was the only remaining judge – Dumbledore and Crouch were dead, Bagman was on the run from the goblins over gambling debts and Karkarov hadn't been seen since the third task had started. The cup had been tampered with to call an extra student in an overgrown plot to murder him, an Auror held captive and impersonated for nearly a year, a young woman had been badly burned, a young man killed and another near death with injuries. By any definition, the tournament had been a disaster – In military terms, a clusterfuck.

Yet, the three in front of her bowed as one when she declared the tournament a draw. In their own way, they all had won. As she handed them each a bag containing a thousand galleons, and set the extra bag next to Harry for Cedric, Fleur spoke for them.

"Originally, I thought that the tournament was simply to see who was ze best. Then I came to realize that it was about learning to work together to survive. I think that was ze lesson that was worth learning."

She kissed Peter, then kissed Harry before declaring, "I am a better person for having competed and for getting to know you two, Victor and Cedric."

Harry kept his gaze in Susan, who was sitting by Hermione and Hannah and was pleased to see the three girls beaming at him. He'd survived another year.

… - …

Friday 30 June

"Imperio."

… - …

As the Hogwarts Express carriage car door slide open, Harry knew that four trouble-free hours were as many as he could reasonably expect. Sure enough, the blonde ferret poked his face in.

"He's back, Potter," drawled Malfoy.

In an even voice Harry replied, "Who's that?"

"The Dark Lord. He's back."

"Really? I wasn't aware that it had been announced. Funny that - I heard he has some positions available. Are you looking for a part-time situation?"

"Very funny, Potter. When my father…"

Harry cut him off before he could launch into his usual shite. "I just saw your father the other evening. He didn't have much to say, Draco. He was too busy bleeding."

Susan carefully watched the blonde teen draw his wand, saw her opportunity and slammed the sliding compartment door closed as hard as she could. With a loud crack, Malfoy's wand broke in two pieces and the boy grabbed his hand, howling in pain as he ran to the other end of the train.

"Twice this week," quipped Harry as he picked up the broken halves of a snapped wand.

"Susan, you shouldn't have done that," admonished Hermione quietly. "You could get in trouble."

Harry replied, "I doubt it."

Hermione continued, "But Harry, you provoked him…"

Susan disagreed, "Who provoked who? We were sitting in our car and never left our seats."

Hermione thought about it for a moment, realized that they were right and suggested, "We're almost at the station. Let's get changed. Close your eyes, Harry."

Playfully, Susan added, "Not too much peeking."

… - …

While a fuming Draco was waiting to be picked up from the Kings Cross station, Lucius Malfoy and a thin, straw colored hair man walked into Gringotts, where the Imperiused millionaire signed documents to empty his vault of thirty million galleons and requested the use of a conference room and the services of a real-estate goblin.

Just before the goblin came in, a spell flashed. The blonde hair man seemed to focus his eyes a little sharper as he rubbed his eyes.

Setting Malfoy's cane out of reach, on the far side of the table, the straw colored hair man announced, "Your vaults are empty Malfoy – you can sell your home in Wiltshire, today, right now for one million galleons and be gone by the end of the day, or you can be arrested, tried, and sent through Death Chamber by sunset. You see, Polyjuice potion and the Imperius curse work both ways."

The man made contact and added, "I'm told that the weather is good in Australia. You might even know a family or two in Perth. Either decision is fine with me. Tell you what – have a drink while you think about it."

Lucius didn't take long to consider the offer. Whoever the man was, he knew about Junior, and presumably was offering him safe passage out of the country. The alternative was starting a firefight in the offices of the Goblin nation, which was almost a sure death sentence, regardless of who won. He had several cashiers checks in his vest pocket from the sale of several of his business interests. The loss of his Gringotts vault and the short sale on the Wiltshire manor represented a loss of just over a third of his assets. He knew it. Scrimgeour, or who-ever had sent the assassin that was currently sitting across the table from him probably knew it too. Nott had warned him of the risks of staying a few extra days. However, based on this offer, it had been worth it.

Malfoy signed the document, picked up the magically lightened valise filled with galleons and his cane and walked out the door to the apparition point.

Four hours later, Lucius, Narcissa and a protesting teenager left the country.

Eight hours later, Fiendfyre consumed the Wiltshire estate.

The next morning, Scrimgeour was delightfully surprised to receive notice that an anonymous individual had donated twenty-eight million galleons to the Ministry General Fund. Knowing that those things didn't simply happen, he called together his department heads, except for Umbridge, who had been sacked over some highly inappropriate comments made at Dumbledore's funeral, to determine if any of them had any relevant information.

No one had so much as an inkling of the source or reason behind the donation.

The real-estate goblin received a promotion for bringing in such a large commission.

… - …

While Draco was feeling the need to taunt Harry about the Dark Lord, Professor Flitwick was reading the morning issue of the Daily Prophet. He was having lunch with Minerva, Sprout and Pomfrey after having sent the students home. Based on their recent contact with Amelia, the four felt that they had a pretty fair perspective of the actual events and were comparing new Daily Prophet's account with their own understanding.

On the first two pages contained photos from the graveyard as well as a photo made from Harry's penseive memory. One illustrated Riddle talking with his Death Eaters. Another showed Bulstrode, Crabbe, Goyle and Yaxley on the ground, dead or bleeding. Another was a photo of Riddle's wand with a small article indicating that it would be returned to the Ministry display case. The accompanying article indicated that Voldemort had been resurrected using a dark ritual with body parts obtained from the grave of his long dead father, Tom Riddle – a well-to-do muggle.

Page four listed the Death Eaters that had been identified, their place of residence and a notice that quite a few had since been captured or killed.

Page five listed the information about the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the tri-wizard tournament along with several photos that Colin Creevey must have taken.

Fudge's death was referenced on page six. The photo from the ministry was quite gruesome, in that Fudge, Crouch and Weasley were all on the ground lying in a pool of their collective blood. The angle of the photo made it difficult to determine who was who. Flitwick commented, "The article quoted Connie Hammer as saying, "Former Ministry of Magic, Fudge and two ministry officials were killed in an attack in the lobby and that there is an ongoing investigation and no arrests have been made. What really happened?"

McGonagall replied, "Amelia believes that Percy was captured – either at Crouch's home, or on the way to it. The most likely explanation is that Crouch had already been under the Imperius curse, and based on his odd behavior as a Tri-Wizard Judge and his disappearances, may have been for some time. Percy was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time and Imperiused the day before. They were killed by Eric Munch immediately after they'd killed Fudge."

Sprout commented, "She or Scrimgeour must have been able to seal the building and keep the killing quiet until after the employee arrests started happening on Monday and Tuesday."

Flitwick gave a thoughtful look and added, "Good. There was no reason to drag the Weasley name through the mud. Well played on Hammer's part."

Poppy asked, "Is there any news from the Board of School Governors?"

Flitwick replied, "I spoke with Grishelda Marchbanks on Tuesday. The Board was going to meet on Monday afternoon."

Minerva added, "I, for one, am not looking to take on the Head position. I'm quite content to continue with the day-to-day administrative duties of the assistant position.

Flitwick admitted, "Fifteen years ago, I would have been interested, maybe even ambitious about the position. However, I expect to retire in the next handful of years and believe that outside leadership would be best for the school.

Sprout nodded in agreement. She expected to ring in the new millennium from her granddaughter's cottage in Wollongong, south of Sydney.

… - …

While the Hogwarts Express was steaming towards London, three men sat in a darkened room in a large estate home by the south coast of the Bristol Channel near the village of Minehead. They were an unusual bunch, in that, by one definition or another, they were all supposed to be dead. Like the professors at Hogwarts, they were being served lunch after reading the Daily Prophet.

As the old elf, aptly named Luckless, cleared the plates and refilled their cups, Wormtail and Junior listened while the Dark Lord formulated his plans. It had become obvious to the two, that their master wasn't up to date on current events - or at least those between his downfall in 1981 and the last few years.

"What next, Master?" inquired Junior.

Riddle muttered, "We were so very close to taking over Britain last time. The ministry was ready to surrender. Bagnold couldn't have held out until the end of the year. Augustus Rookwood and John Avery were well on their way to eliminating the auror threat from within. Evan Rosier's team had the shopkeepers terrified. Antonin Dolohov had the giants on my side and Finrir Greyback and his pack of Werewolves were a fearsome force to attack with."

He reflected for a moment and added, "And the Lestranges – their attacks brought fear to every mud blood home. The tales told by the few survivors were among my greatest weapons. Thinking further he considered, "I had funding – Orion and Walberga Black and then later Stephen Nott and Lucius Malfoy saw that our needs were taken care of."

He reflected and added, "It was unfortunate that their son, Regulus disappeared. He showed so much promise."

Crouch observed, "I never saw him in Azkaban."

Riddle paused for a moment and replied, "Azkaban… It's time to reclaim the rest of my faithful followers. Dolohov's skill at crafting wands will be needed."

Wormtail added, "Black's trial is to be held Monday. It is likely that quite a few of the Azkaban guards will be on hand to testify against him.

Riddle considered Wormtail's statement. Black's trial would probably be a media circus – especially if Black had been persuaded to attend. Guilty of the crimes that Pettigrew had committed or not, the Aurors were probably much more interested in how Black had managed to escape than the loss of a dozen long-dead muggles. He checked the paper again, which stated that the trial was slated to start at ten AM on Monday and was scheduled for two hours in front of the full Wizengamot.

He would attack Azkaban at eleven.

… - …

ooo CCC ooo

After the bed pan transfiguration incident, the Old Scribe tried desperately to find an owl willing to deliver his latest report. His efforts were in vain. As he carefully navigated the steel horse along the Chief Joseph Highway, he considered what he had seen and what was yet to happen.

The bottle of Bud Light was cold and felt good in his weary hand.

Later, as he reached the gates of Hogwarts to deliver his report, he considered the reports from the other scribes that he'd read. Most of the reports seemed to be better written than his own, particularly those from his Australian friend Robert. Crow reflected… Perhaps every storyteller felt the same.

When Crow reached the door of her office, McGonagall seemed quite conciliatory. Apparently his apprentice had reminded of her own words, "We never use Transfiguration as a punishment." Crow was equally polite as he carefully set the parchment on her desk and neatly wrote the numbers 4986849 and 6459372 on her chalkboard.

As he was leaving, he was certain that he heard her call, "Ride safely, Mr. Crow."

He nodded and started the engine.

Back

Next

Index