An Inconvenient Truth

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Chapter 024

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Chapter Twenty-Four

As the Seventh Month Dies

Friday 20 July

… - …

After the attack at Ollivander's, Moody took a different tact with Harry. He wanted to see how much magical energy the teen could expend without passing out. His goal was to get Harry to increase his limit over time.

One morning they worked on physical endurance and the next on magic. On Fridays, they worked on increasing Harry's repertoire of defensive and offensive spells.

Today was Friday.

They were outside by the lake, enjoying the sunshine. Moody began, "Today we're going to work on negating an enemy's advantage. We'll work on fire-based spells. Which ones do you know?"

They both replied, "Incendio."

Moody directed, "Show me."

Susan went first and cast her spell. A very respectable flame shot out of her wand and started a good-sized grass fire in front of them.

Moody quickly put out the fire and remarked, "That was pretty good, Susan. Harry, you're up."

Harry pointed at a fir tree some twenty yards away and shouted, "Incendio." He pushed himself as he cast. A huge jet of flame shot from his wand, made contact with the tree and a moment later, it was completely engulfed in a ball of flame!

Given those results, the old Auror acquired second thoughts about teaching the teens Fiendfyre without the assistance of a small army of helpers to put out the intensive flame. Instead he remarked, "Let's go shopping,"

Two hours later, the teens were outfitted with new gloves and dragonhide trousers to match their vests. Moody also personally sprung for another pair of boots each for the teens.

As he paid, he muttered to himself, "I must be going soft."

… - …

Stephen Nott asked, "Why so quiet, Lucius? The weather is excellent and we're nine thousand miles away from Britain's Civil War. We have most of our wealth; we can buy any business that we want to be in. Our sons and wives will eventually realize that the change was for the best. There's no lack of rentals. We can find schools for Draco, Theodore and John."

Malfoy replied, "I met my assassin before I left. Next week, next month, next year – I don't know when, but one day he'll bring Death to my door."

Nott remarked, "Riddle will lose the war – His head will be displayed on a pike, but nothing will change. Some do-gooder will call for reconciliation like Dumbledore did in the late '40s and all will be forgiven."

Nott drank from his glass and added, "Besides, your assassin was probably just trying to fleece you. He'll probably take the gold and drown himself in Ogden's or muff and never come back up for air."

Lucius drained his glass. Something told him that the man he'd met hadn't asked for or accepted a sickle for his time.

Nott urged him on. "Let's buy the two vineyards that we looked at in Swan Valley. We can change our names to Calvert and Seagram and tell people that we're from Canada if it will make you feel safer."

Begrudgingly, the blonde nodded and inquired, "You'll have Jameson create the documentation?"

Stephen nodded.

Malfoy suggested, "Then kill him a month after he delivers the documents. Let's not create any trails that will lead to us."

Nott nodded and asked, "Will our sons keep our secrets?"

Lucius refilled his glass and contemplated. A moment later, he replied, "I honestly doubt that Draco could manage to keep a secret for an entire day if he were locked in a room full of deaf/mutes. It would be safer to Obliviate him, but Narcissa would never allow it."

Knowing the teen, Nott didn't disagree. He suggested, "Perhaps day-school would be a safer choice – at least for the next term or two. They can go to the large school in Melbourne next year after they've settled in. Are we agreed?"

Malfoy nodded.

Stephen remarked, "I'll make it so."

… - …

Cedric awoke again. He was still in the same room, but had no tubes in his arm this time. The young woman was in the same chair, reading a different book. In a cracked voice that had gone out of practice, he said, "Hello. What's your name?"

The young woman put her book down, gave him a compassionate look and replied, "My name is Hermione. What's your name?"

He thought for a while, trying to remember and finally replied, "Cedric. My name is Cedric."

… - …

Saturday 28 July

The roles around the breakfast table seemed reversed that Saturday. Amelia seemed to be fretting about something. Harry was reminded of the time when she had asked him to borrow the galleons that he'd gotten from selling the basilisk to the Goblins. Looking at Susan, who shrugged, Harry asked, "What's up?"

Amelia expelled a breath that she'd unconsciously been holding and asked, "Harry, what do you think about Rufus?"

He looked at Susan, who rolled her eyes, and he asked, "Are you two going to start dating, or get married?"

"Heavens no, Harry. Rufus and I have known each other for – well, nearly forever. We're a bit like how Susie describes your friends Ron and Hermione. We'd probably end up choking each other. Besides, he's married to a wonderful woman, Celia."

She laughed again, breaking the tension. "Ignoring his love life, my question is, what do you think of Rufus, as Minister of Magic?"

A bit confused at the question, Harry asked, "I thought that was just temporary – someone would get elected and he'd go back to his regular job. Why do you ask?"

Amelia admitted, "I would like him to get elected as Minister in a few weeks and Tiberius Ogden is running against him."

Harry remarked, "He's the one who helped get Sirius' name cleared."

Amelia replied, "That's true. However, I've often wondered if he did it because your Godfather is a good guy, or so you would feel indebted to him. In spite of your oft stated wishes, you're a very famous influential young wizard – both for what happened when you were little, and increasingly, for the things you've done in the last few years."

Harry protested, "But I've never even talked with him."

Amelia replied, "True, at least for now. But he's spoken of you and referenced you in his campaign speeches – implying that you're the best of pals."

Harry looked at Susan – almost in a panic – and asked, "What do I need to do?"

Amelia asked, "Do you think Rufus is doing okay as Minister, or do you think Fudge did a better job?"

She knew that it wasn't really a fair question, but felt that it would allow Harry the opportunity to formulate his answer so they could talk about it.

Immediately Harry replied, "No! Fudge never believed me – He tried to Obliviate my memory. He kept that awful Umbridge woman around as his assistant. He wouldn't believe that Riddle had returned. He couldn't even say his name. He was awful!"

Amelia quietly observed, "Rufus spent a lot of his own time last year helping you train for the Tri-Wizard-Tournament."

Harry asked, "Did he do that because he wanted to, because you're his boss and asked him to, or because I'm famous and he wanted me as a friend?"

Amelia admitted, "I don't know for sure. What does your heart tell you?"

Harry replied, "When we first met, he seemed like what Hermione calls a 'Fangirl.'"

Amelia choked a laugh, but tried to keep a straight face. Images of Rufus in a tight leather skirt, kept floating around the edges of her mind.

Harry continued, "When we got to know each other, he… well he treated me like what I'd always hoped an Uncle would be. Does that make sense?"

In spite of his ineloquent description, she understood perfectly. She really wanted his help, but was reluctant to press. She nodded and waited in silence.

Harry asked, "So what has he done as Minister?"

"Well," admitted Amelia, "There are the things we can talk about with other people and the things that we can't mention outside of family. On the talking side, he authorized six additional Auror positions, then authorized a new class of twenty-five cadets. That's as large as the class that ran in 1980. He authorized checking the Wizengamot and all of the employees for the Dark Mark. He sacked Delores Umbridge. In short, he cleaned house and has better prepared us to fight a war – something Fudge would never do because he was so under the influence of Malfoy and Dumbledore."

Susan asked, "And the not for public things?"

"He's helped with the horcrux hunting and he "encouraged" the Daily Prophet to report the truth. Beyond that, I believe that if the need came, he'd be in your corner for you."

Harry was reminded of Dumbledore's first year discussion about the truth being a wonderful and dangerous thing. He asked, "How could I help? Does he need a campaign contribution or something?"

"No nothing like that. I'd request that you and Susie and Hermione go to the ministry today to get your conditional use of magic permits renewed. If you wait in the lobby for a minute or two, I'm certain that one of the reporters from either Witch Weekly or the Daily Prophet will find you and ask a few questions. If they ask you about Rufus or the war effort, just give them an honest answer. You don't need to make a speech or anything. Is that okay?"

Harry looked at Susan and nodded. He remarked, "I don't know if Hermione can go, but I'll call her."

Disappointed with herself for asking, she replied, "Thank you, Harry. I won't ask for something like this again."

Confused, Harry asked, "You've done so much for me and asked for almost nothing back. You said we're family, right?"

"Of course."

"If this will help, let's help each other."

He was rewarded with two sets of hugs.

… - …

Headmaster Florean Fortescue realized that the biggest long-term impacts that he could make within the time that he had available were in staffing decisions, and clearly setting and stating expectations.

As he stood behind the counter, serving his special guests, he stated, "In my Ice Cream business, there was the customer expectation that each flavor would be the best that it could be. Parents who brought groups of children into the shop had the expectation that their child would be well served and receive a quality product."

As he handed them their cones, he asked the group of Professors that he'd invited into his shop, "Are those reasonable expectations for parents that send their sons or daughters to Hogwarts?"

Flitwick, Sprout and McGonagall eagerly agreed.

Florean asked, "So in your observations, what flavors, I mean what classes aren't working"

"Potions."

"History of Magic."

"Divination."

Sprout added, "Muggle Studies is a disaster. For Heaven's sake, Arthur Weasley is considered the Country's expert! What does that say?"

Amused at their collective rant, Fortescue inquired, "What courses are missing?"

Flitwick offered, "Finance."

Minerva suggested, "Wizarding Society." Sort of a wizarding version of Muggle Studies, except for the muggle born."

Florean queried, "What about Defense?"

Minerva was about to say something, but Flitwick beat her, declaring, "I believe that Alastor Moody will do a fine job preparing our children to be safe in the world."

Minerva added, "As much as we would like all of these changes, the Board is unlikely to go along with them."

"They already have," observed Fortescue. "The extra funding came from realigning the Headmaster salary back to that of a Ministry Dept Head position, which will easily fund the extra positions."

Sprout remarked, "That was an inspired reallocation of resources."

As they finished their ice cream, Fortescue remarked, "No parent would send their child into my shop with the expectation that I would allow bullying."

"That's easier said than done," remarked McGonagall. "In the past…"

Fortescue cut her off. "I simply won't have it. Attendance at the school is not a right – it's a privilege. Objectively, the people who were most likely to instigate it, encourage it, tolerate it, turn a blind eye to it, or offer an offender three-hundred second chances are missing, in prison, or dead. That said, I will not tolerate it and will take swift action, whether it's coming from a student, a parent, or a faculty member."

He finished his cone to allow the stunned, Assistant Headmistress a moment to think about what he'd just said. Then he added, "One September is a Sunday this year. We will suspend classes on the first Monday and offer a new orientation to every student. Also, most of you have heard that Ollivander has been asked to move his shop into the castle. He'll work out of one of the small buildings that are outside of the castle proper, but within the inner wall."

Sprout caught Flitwick's eye. It would be a very interesting new term.

… - …

Minerva frowned when she read the headline the next morning.

Harry Potter Supports Scrimgeour for Minister.

She read further and saw the quote, "I can't imagine anyone doing more than he has about the war on terror that Tom Riddle has landed us with."

She turned to Flitwick and wondered, "How was Potter coerced into giving a newspaper interview? He hasn't even taken his OWLs yet. Amelia should know better than to get him mixed up in politics."

Feeling devilish, the Charms Master innocently inquired, "Where was the photo taken?"

Minerva replied, "By the fountain in the lobby at the ministry."

Going in for the kill, Flitwick inquired, "Did the article happen to reference why Mr. Potter happened to be there by himself?"

She examined the photo more closely and saw Susan Bones and Miss Granger in the background. She replied, "Apparently he was there to get his conditional use of magic permit renewed."

Sprout observed, "Ostensibly. In actuality, he was there to cement the election for Rufus Scrimgeour. She could have signed his form and sent in the gold himself. Rufus couldn't have purchased better campaign publicity if he'd spent a month's wages. Ogden would have to get a testimonial from Merlin himself to match that."

Minerva listened to them and came to realize that she would have been eaten alive had she mistakenly been talked into accepting the Head position. She simply had no interest in swaying public opinion, or politics.

… - …

Tuesday 31 July

Harry awoke at six as was his habit, showered and got dressed. He was surprised to see both Amelia as well as Susan at the table. Susan was a habitual late sleeper. Amelia greeted the teens, "Happy birthday, Harry. I'm told that Alastor gave you two the morning off. Just so you know, Susan and I invited some guests over at one."

Seeing his look and knowing that old habits die hard, she added, "Smidgen has insisted on taking care of everything. Is there anything that you'd like to do this morning?"

Harry thought for a moment and replied, "If it's possible, I'd like to go visit Cedric."

Amelia considered his request and believed that it might be good for the both of them. She replied, "I'll take you both at eight. I have an errand to run, so I'll pick you both up at nine. Okay?"

… - …

Today was a big day for Cedric Diggory. The healers had promised him that he could go home today. He didn't have any clear memories of it, but his parents told him it was nice. His parents had shown him a lot of things. Some he remembered; others he believed because it was shown or told to him.

He liked the visits from his parents, but what he really enjoyed were the daily visits from the other girl, Hermione. She read to him, brought him a book to read, or even better, sometimes told him stories about school or places that she'd been.

There was a knock on the door, and Sandy, his regular Medi-Witch came in. She smiled as she greeted the teen. "Good morning, Cedric. You have some visitors."

Cedric's eyes light up. He asked, "Hermione?"

Sandy admitted, "No. But they know you from school too. I'll get them."

Two teens walked in. They looked friendly and somewhat familiar. He said, "Hi. I'm Cedric. What are your names?"

Coached by Amelia of this likelihood, Harry introduced himself and Susan. Cedric replied, "My parents and my friend Hermione have mentioned you. They said that we were in some sort of tournament together. I don't remember the tournament, or honestly, anything from…"

He was searching for the right word, "Hogwarts. I also don't remember many names or faces."

Harry replied, "That's okay. We can start fresh. I'm Harry Potter. I'm glad to meet you."

Susan added, "I'm Susan Bones. We're both glad to meet you and to see you gain."

Cedric remarked, "My dad told me that you saved my life. Thank you."

Harry noticed that Susan's eyes were welling with tears. Cedric had acted like a big brother to her many times – keeping Malfoy or his idiot friends at bay. Now he seemed so helpless. He replied, "I like to think that we helped each other. That's a good basis for a friendship, don't you think?"

He held out his hand. Cedric took it and they shook hands.

As Harry was shaking Cedric's hand, Hermione walked in. Cedric remarked, "Hi Hermione. These are my new friends, Harry and Susan."

Hermione smiled at him and replied, "That's very nice. I'm glad that you met them. They're my friends too."

Cedric added, "I met a new friend yesterday after you left. She teaches at the school. Her name is Professor Sprout."

Susan replied, "I know her. She's very nice."

Cedric said, "My mum and dad said that I'd be leaving here today to go home. I don't know where that is, but he could tell you. Could you come over and visit sometime?"

They all agreed. Hermione added, "I'll wait here with you until your parents come to collect you." She looked at Susan and mouthed 'later' as they were leaving.

… - …

When they got back, Harry asked, "Did you know Hermione was going over and visiting Cedric all the time?"

Susan squeezed Harry's hand and replied, "She asked me not to mention it. She also mentioned knowing that you had gone and sat with her all of those evenings in second year. She never forgot it and saw the opportunity to help someone else."

Harry asked, "What about Cho? I thought they were…"

Susan helped him out of his awkward moment. "It's good that their relationship never got to the "In sickness and in health" stage. She's been seeing Roger Davis's older brother. He finished last year and got a job as a reserve beater for the Wimbourne Wasps."

… - …

Neville had never enjoyed his birthday. His Gran had the habit of using the day to remind him of the sacrifices that his parents had made. He reluctantly accepted Susan's invitation; even more so when he found that Susan's Aunt had invited Gran.

He was amazed when they got there and the colorful banner above the table read Happy Birthday Neville and Harry. It was amazing with colors that changed and photos that flashed of the two together, both recently and also when they were babies.

There were quite a few people that he knew and counted as friends – Hannah and her parents, Professor Lupin and an Auror named Tonks who called him by name. The Gryffindor Quidditch team was there as well as Ron and Ginny. Colin and Dennis Creevey came up to him several times and said, "Happy birthday."

Neville wasn't surprised to see some of the ministry people there. An Investigator named Connie Hammer came up and told him that she had worked with his parents in such a way that it was obvious that she wasn't feeling sorry for him, which made him feel good about himself.

He received quite a few gifts and was shocked when Hannah whispered that she had an extra gift for him later that he'd have to help unwrap.

… - …

Sirius and Anna had also come to the party. Sirius kept glancing at Harry and Susan, who were talking with Pomfrey and Sprout. Exasperated, Anna suggested, "Why don't you just go over and talk with him. He's not going to bite you."

Sirius was completely flustered. It had been over a month since he'd talked with his Godson. The conversation had seemed forced the last time that they'd talked. He replied, "What if he hates me? It was my mistake that…"

She cut him off. "He doesn't hate you – It's not your fault – Drop the negative self-talk. Susan's going off with Hannah to plot some teenage-girl plot. Go now. I'll wait for you."

… - …

Amelia was quick to seek out Becky Abbot. The two women had been close for the last thirteen years – even if separated by distance and age. Becky observed, "Harry doesn't even look like the same boy. Last summer, he looked like the lost waif from some Dickens story. Now he's…"

"Ten inches taller with another thirty pounds of muscle."

Becky declared, "You've been good for him."

"I'd better phrase it; the three of us have been good for each other."

"So are Susie and Harry dating?"

"Yes, but I've asked her to wait another year until they take it any farther."

"Her?"

Amelia nodded, "Harry would break down the gates of Hell for Susie, but an unkind word from her would probably shatter him. He'd never push her into anything that she didn't ask him to. How about Hannah? I've seen Alice's boy, Neville with her several times. Has Augusta said anything?"

Becky shook her head and replied, "I'm half expecting her Solicitor to send a marriage contract this summer. Lord, can't they just be fifteen?"

Picking up her glass of Blue Nun, Becky inquired, "So what's really happening with him?"

Amelia replied, "Riddle? We have a chance this time, Becky. It's like we were dealt a better hand and have a larger stack of chips to work with. As Bagman would say, a lot of the even odds bets have gone our way this time, and Riddle's been set back on his heals. My biggest worry is that my children seem to be destined to have a staring role in the epic drama that he's landed us with."

She refilled her glass and added, "He'd murdered a handful of people before he even entered his seventh year. Out of all of the thousands of times that Dumbledore had stuck his nose into other people's business, why did he choose to ignore that misguided boy?"

Becky shrugged and replied, "We'll never know."

… - …

Ron was confused. Harry had always forgiven him for the dozens of blunders that he'd made over the years.

However, when he got mad last October over Harry's name getting drawn to compete in the tournament, he'd allowed his anger to escalate to a new level. He'd tried to punch Harry, shoved him and had told him to drop dead. They hadn't spoken more than a few words at a time since. Previously, Harry had always forgiven him within a day or two. He glared at the boy-who-lived, who was chatting up Susan Bones and Hermione.

Just then, he was picked up by Fred and George, who each had an arm and frog-marched him to a quiet out-of-the-way spot.

"We thought we'd do you a favor, little brother,"

"Before you did something stupid,"

"Even more stupid than usual, like insulting Harrikins,"

"Or his girlfriend,"

"Or Hermione,"

"Seeing as the last twelve people who threatened her,"

"Were buried,"

"After their pieces were put back together."

"What are you two on about?" demanded the lanky teen.

Fred stated, "Plainly spoken, you need to accept the fact that Harry has taken on a higher calling in life and has moved on to serious stuff. He's not your mate anymore, or specifically, you're not his mate anymore – Susan is. Like we told you a month ago, you need to accept it, and move on."

Ron whined, "But Snape's gone and I heard Malfoy left the school. The Quidditch Cup is ours this year."

George looked at Fred and sadly shook his head. There was zero absorption happening. He replied, "What's this ours – you're not even on the team. Grow up, Ron. There's a war coming, and if we're lucky, it won't come banging on our door."

Ron pushed back, "Of course I'll make the team. Wood finished a year ago and the spot didn't get filled last year. You two and Harry will recommend me, so I'm a shoe-in."

Angelina and Alicia walked over and announced, "No one's a shoe-in. I got the Captain badge in my letter yesterday. I wrote McGonagall a letter back, saying I was going to give it back unless team practices were limited to once a week for everyone. There are more important things to be focused on these days."

Ron walked away, muttering, "You're all mental."

… - …

Sirius walked up to Harry carrying two butterbeers. He handed Harry one, smiled and said, "Happy birthday, Harry. It's good to see you."

Harry replied, "You too, Sirius. How have you been?" Harry felt that the conversation was getting awkward, like they were trying to reminisce with too little foundation to work from.

Sirius remarked, "Much better since the hearing. I'm waiting until the Rat gets his day in court. Beyond that, I've been looking at a property to buy."

Harry's anxiety level was soaring. He liked Sirius well enough, but he did not want to leave Amelia and Susan. In desperation, he looked at Susan, who was talking with Anna.

Sirius saw his eyes shift and remarked, "She seems nice. Do you like her?"

Relieved at the change of subject, Harry remarked, "Yes, very much. I… We… Yes, very much."

Sirius laughed. It was refreshing and broke some of the tension between them. Sirius glanced at Anna again, who seemed to be trying to communicate something to him, via hand gesture.

Harry noticed and asked, "Do you know Anna Daily?"

Now it was Sirius' turn to act like the awkward teen. He gave an uncomfortable nod.

Harry remarked, "She seems nice. Do you like her?"

Sirius squirmed, "Yes, very much. I… We… Um… Yes, very much."

Harry suggested, "Good. Let's go collect them then and get something to eat."

Sirius agreed, "That sounds brilliant."

… - …

Remus was at the food table, where he stood next to a woman who appeared to be in her mid-twenties. She glanced at him and remarked, "Good afternoon, Mr. Lupin. Congratulations on your capture of Peter Pettigrew."

"Remus replied, "You have me at a disadvantage, Miss…?"

"Tonks." She glanced at him and immediately noticed the flecks of gold in his deep brown eyes and smiled. She added, "I'm pleased to meet you. Shall we find a place to sit and eat?"

Lupin replied, "I'd like that. Thanks."

As there were eating their lunch, Tonks inquired, "So what brings you to this gathering today?"

Remus replied, "I was friends with Harry's parents. We've kept in contact after we re-met at the school, a year ago. How about you?"

Tonks replied, "I work with those two over there," pointing to Connie and Anna.

"Investigators Daily and Hammer? I had the opportunity to meet them this month. So you're an Auror?"

Tonks was ready for the man to make a quick exit, but when he didn't get up after a few seconds, she relaxed slightly and replied, "Yes. I'm junior to both of them, of course." She smiled and added, "So what do you do when you're not capturing notorious, presumed dead, Death Eaters?"

Remus replied, "I'm currently working for Sirius Black, evaluating and disposing of an estate."

Tonks inquired, "The old Black home in London?"

Seeing his nod, she added, "I was in there a few times when I was younger. It was creepy."

Remus smiled a bit and observed, "So my job is to make it less creepy, sort through and destroy the dangerous, dark objects, sort through the books and manuscripts and sell the safe items."

Tonks observed, "That could take years."

Remus admitted, "It is quite an undertaking, but I enjoy the work."

Tonks asked, "So when you're not busy catching criminals in your spare time, would you like to have dinner with me some time?"

Feeling better about himself now that he had a few galleons in his pocket and good prospects for the next year, Remus replied, "I'd like that."

… - …

Amos Diggory found Harry and went up to him. He greeted him, "Happy birthday, Harry. I'd like to thank you for going to see Cedric this morning. He was happy to meet you again."

"Susan and I were happy to see him, Sir."

Amos asked, "If you don't mind my asking, how is it that you were wearing an armor vest that night at the third task?"

"Sir, Rufus suggested it after Victor Krum was killed during the second task."

Amos admitted, "He made the same suggestion to me. I didn't listen."

"I didn't do enough."

"Son, I've watched that memory at least fifty times. What is it that you believe you did wrong?"

Harry admitted, "I don't know. There had to be something."

"Son, you bested a wizard nearly everyone considered unbeatable. You made him look bad in front of his Death Eaters. I heard a few of them defected, and you put a few of them down, like the dogs that they are. Cedric put his hand on that cursed cup of his own free will, just like you. Lucky for him, he accidently grabbed it again when that bastard Pettigrew was firing at him. Cedric is okay, Son. Someday he'll be fine again. I can only thank you for what you've done and beg that you'll keep an eye on him for me at school this year."

Harry promised, "I will, Sir."

"Amos, Harry. Amos. And thank you."

… - …

After most of the guests began to leave, Scrimgeour picked up a bottle from the bar and two lowball glasses. A few minutes later, Mad-Eye limped over and set his walking stick down. He commented, "Well played, getting an endorsement from Harry."

Scrimgeour nodded at his friend of fifty years and replied, "I'd happily pat myself on the back if I'd had anything to do with it. Either he did it himself, or Amelia coached him."

He offered Moody a glass and the bottle, remarking, "Whiskey? I've lost my taste for Ogden's."

Moody nodded and Rufus poured two glasses on the table to let Moody pick. Moody picked one and they drained their glasses together, as they'd done countless times. After they repeated the ritual, Scrimgeour observed, "Useful stuff, that Polyjuice. Are you done with it?"

Maintaining eye contact, Moody observed, "For now. If you believe in prophecies, this is Potter's battle to win. All we've done is to buy him some time and give him a leg up."

Scrimgeour asked, "Will it matter?"

Moody replied, "In my opinion, yes. Potter's good. In some things, he's the best I've seen, but he's not ready yet. In a few years, he'll be better. He'll be ready. If you can give me that much time, I'll see to it."

Scrimgeour couldn't find fault with Moody's logic, even if his methods were off the chart.

Moody added, "Artwork is coming onto the market that belonged to Rabastan Lestrange. You would know more about the status of their estate than I would. I'd guess that Tonks or the Malfoy brat would stand to inherit. Assuming that hasn't happened yet, I'd guess that Riddle is holed up at one of their properties and unloading what he can for a bit of gold."

Moody refilled their glasses and added, "If I were you, I'd leave him be for now. It will be easy enough to keep his back against the wall and prune any new branches that sprout up – recruiting ways. By my estimate, he's nearly broke and only has three lackeys who are worth a shite. Just don't give anyone a reason to join him."

Scrimgeour asked, "What about Malfoy and Nott?"

Moody replied, "I'm not worried about them. My informant Rob mentioned that he's not too happy that they're hiding in the Perth area, but keeping them in hiding keeps better than a hundred million galleons off the table. On a different subject – I'm curious why, after showing no interest what-so-ever, Old Tiberius is suddenly looking to get into top management. Perhaps someone encouraged him."

Scrimgeour shook his head. "He's not really a problem. His business would never survive a VAT audit. We don't need to worry about him."

"True enough, but he still could funnel enough gold Riddle's way to cause a problem."

Scrimgeour offered him a refill, but the old Auror refused. As they got up, Scrimgeour reminded Moody, "Don't get caught and don't leave a trail."

Moody gave a small nod and went back to the castle.

… - …

Saturday 4 August

The headline read Scrimgeour Elected Minister

Landslide victory with 79 percent majority

Sprout turned to Flitwick and asked, "Should I remind her that I told her so?"

The diminutive genius replied, "It's not worth it. Minerva would just get mad." He looked at the article that had a photo of Scrimgeour being congratulated by Harry, Susan and Hermione. Then he glanced over at Fortescue and remarked, "Besides, they're both just Stewards."

She considered his words carefully and nodded.

… - …

Monday 13 August

Hermione announced, "Last week we went over the first year spells. This week, we'll try the second year material."

With approvals from Headmaster Fortescue and Professor Sprout, she had volunteered to teach/reteach Transfiguration and Charms to Cedric. It had been estimated that best case, Cedric's memory loss would be primarily focused on theory, with the hope that the teen had retained much of his muscle memory.

Cedric's loss of memory was much more severe than anyone had originally expected. He had lost the memory of everyone that he had ever known. He also had a total loss of his knowledge of magic and his time at Hogwarts. Other things were remarkably clear to him. He could pick out Spain on a globe. He had the same reading/writing and basic math skills as most Hogwarts students.

A few days after the third task, the house calls and letters to the Diggorys all but stopped. Most people had written the teen off as dead, or nearly so, and avoided any potentially uncomfortable questions or conversations.

Except one.

Hermione Granger had introduced herself to Florence Diggory one day at St. Mungo's and asked if it would be okay if she came and visited Cedric. She explained what had happened to her in second year and the value that a regular visitor could bring to her son.

A week before Cedric was scheduled to leave the hospital, the Diggorys got Sprout involved. It had become clear that Cedric couldn't simply return to his classes and effectively would have to relearn his magic from scratch. That was when Hermione volunteered. The teen obviously knew her material, and was willing and available to help Cedric.

Most importantly, Cedric was comfortable with her and trusted her. So the lessons continued.

… - …

Saturday 31, August

At their request, the day before they left, Harry and Susan spent the afternoon walking the streets of London with Amelia, Rufus and Connie.

Rufus observed, "It's been quite a summer. Are you two ready to go back to school?"

Harry replied, "For all of us. I expect it will seem like a different school with all of the new teachers. On the other hand, Susan and I were there most mornings the last two months. Mad-Eye is teaching us loads of useful stuff."

Amelia commented, "In lieu of attending fifth year DADA classes, he volunteered to tutor the two of you three nights a week. Fortescue announced that since Cedric will be getting special lessons for the year, it would be fair that you two did too. It's sort of the school's way of making up for all of the blunders from last year. Consider it special dispensation for Voldemort Rebirth Survivors."

Connie shook her head and commented, "I'm glad you said it, not me. That was awful."

Susan asked, "Voldemort's still out there, but no one's seen him. What's he up to?"

Amelia acknowledged, "Yes, he's out there somewhere – probably trying to acquire some decent supporters. We'll find them. We'll get them. We'll all take care of each other. That's what family does."

End

ooo CCC ooo

As the old scribe began laughing to himself, McGonagall arrived at the Broken Spoke Saloon to pick up the latest report. She looked a bit disheveled. Crow didn't know if her appearance was the result of too much of the white lightning, or the "date" that he'd arranged for her with eight of the patrons that he'd met at the establishment.

In any event, she seemed to have a smile on her face, even if she was walking a bit gingerly.

"Mr. Crow," she began, "Even though Mr. Potter shows much promise, he clearly is too young for what you apparently have in mind."

For once, the two of them seemed to have found some common ground. The old scribe nodded as he handed her a card from the Number Ten Saloon with two hand-written numbers on the back – 5091798 and 6413108. He was going to see a blast at the Crazy Horse Monument and then off to Nevada.

McGonagall called as he was leaving, "If you happen to stop by the Las Vegas Distillery, please pick up another bottle of that marvelous potion for me."

As he tightened his helmet, the old scribe wondered if she hadn't turned over a new leaf.

… - …

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