What If? ... An Alternative to Order Of the Phoenix
By Chem Prof
Chapter 2, Turnabout
“Sirius!” Harry broke into a run and hurried over to greet his godfather, with Hermione only a few steps behind him. “How did you get here? Is everything …” Harry glanced anxiously over at his host, his concern obvious. After all, here was an escaped ‘murderer’, the most wanted man in wizardingBritain, in the home of a French Ministry official.
But Monsieur Delacour quickly moved to reassure him. It turned out that Fleur had shared the information she’d learned from Harry with her father, including the story of Sirius’s innocence. Given the high opinion the Delacours had of Harry Potter, it was accepted without question. Indeed, the elder Delacour had just been discussing with Sirius some possible ideas of how to go about clearing his name.
“I told you I had no intention of staying in England any longer than I had to,” Sirius reminded Harry as everyone settled into their seats at the breakfast table. “I left as soon as I got word that you were here safely.” Harry shot a glance of appreciation to Hermione, seated on his other side, as she had been the one who’d insisted that they send Hedwig to Sirius the previous night before they went to bed.
“So, I wrote a note – didn’t want everyone to panic when they found you and I’d both gone missing – grabbed Buckbeak, waited until it was good and dark, and here I am. And it’s none too soon, believe me. That woman was driving me batty.”
“Who?” Harry asked between bites of a pastry.
“Molly Weasley,” Sirius muttered.
“Oh,” Harry mumbled in confusion. He’d quite liked the friendly, though outspoken woman. “She’s always been so nice to me.”
Hermione took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “Harry, she’s always acted like a mother to you, right? And that’s just what you needed, so of course you appreciated it,” she explained. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I suspect that she just can’t stop being a mother, though.” She glanced back to Sirius and he nodded.
“Don’t get me wrong, pup,” he clarified. “I think it’s great that she took you in, treated you like one of her own sons, even. It’s just that she has her opinions about the way things should be, and well, I don’t necessarily agree with her. Hermione’s right, she tries to mother everyone. She pretty much took over running the house. And remember, it was my house. But she and the rest of them are welcome to it now.”
Harry pondered this information and realized the truth in his godfather’s assertion, recalling Mrs. Weasley’s disapproval of the twins’ plans for a joke shop, Charlie’s occupation, the length of Bill’s hair, etc. He shrugged and decided to let it go.
After a pause, Sirius, continued, “ That was only part of it, though. I hate that house. I only went back and opened it up so the Order could use it. And I’m frustrated with what they’re doing … or not doing.”
Of course, no one would let him stop there, so Sirius explained further. Dumbledore had recreated the resistance group that had opposed Voldemort in the last war, called the Order of the Phoenix. But Sirius disagreed with their methods.
They weren’t doing anything to counter the bad press Harry and Dumbledore were getting, he claimed. They were having little success persuading the wizarding public that Voldemort had really returned. They had been instructed to keep Harry and the other students completely in the dark (which Sirius had opposed but Mrs. Weasley had vigorously supported). What they were primarily doing was guarding a room in the Department of Mysteries called the Hall of Prophecies. Apparently there was a prophecy in there that was important to Voldemort, so they were trying to keep him from getting it.
When Hermione predictably scoffed at the idea that any prophecy could be important, Harry reminded her of Trelawny’s prophecy about the night they rescued Sirius that had come true. And that Dumbledore had commented that it had brought her total of real prophecies up to two. Hermione responded with a huff and Harry grinned, shaking his head gently and giving her arm a squeeze, causing the adults in the room to smile at the obvious affection the two students shared.
Sirius cleared his throat to get them back on track. He and Fleur’s father had been plotting, and now Monsieur Delacour twirled his mustache with a devilish smirk.
“I believe that first we will let the French public know of your plight,” he declared. “Then the French government will announce its support for you. Then more details will come to light, including the horrible injustice of Mr. Black’s incarceration. I suspect that your current Minister won’t survive these revelations. With luck, the new government will prove more vigorous in taking action against You Know Who.”
While such an outcome sounded wonderful to Harry, he was skeptical about how and why the French ministry would be so accommodating. He wasn’t accustomed to wizarding governments being so helpful. But Delacour had a convincing reply.
“There are several reasons for doing this, not all of them entirelyaltruistic,” he explained. “You are the Boy Who Lived, and any wizarding government would be inclined to look favorably on your situation for that reason alone. You are now also the Tri-Wizard champion, having triumphed over, among other opponents, France’s best.” He inclined his head toward Fleur, who blushed slightlyat her father’s praise. “Believe me, it will make us look good in the eyes of the world to support you.”
Harry had grimaced when the French wizard used the hated nickname, but nodded when he finished that he understood this line of reasoning.
“Speaking for our family, we owe you a debt of honor for your actions during the tournament,” he continued. “Not to mention the fact that my eldest daughter speaks very highly of your character. It is truly an honor for us to be allowed to assist you.” Before Harry could object that he hadn’t done anything that great, Delacour concluded, “But what makes me completely certain that our country will stand behind you is that we French never pass up an opportunity to tweak our English cousins across the channel.”
Harry grinned as a humorous scene of French soldiers in a castle thumbing their noses at a group of English knights flashed through his mind. A shared smile with Hermione let him know that she was thinking the same thing, as a certain Monty Python movie had been on the telly the previous week.
After breakfast they all moved to the sitting room, where the two students spent the rest of the morning filling the Delacours in on the details of Harry’s various encounters with the Ministry of Magic, as well as some of their adventures at Hogwarts. While Fleur was relatively familiar with the events of the past year, and had shared them with her parents, the tales of Harry and Hermione’s first three years were new to the French family. For her part, Mrs. Granger several times raised an eyebrow and glanced pointedly at her daughter, as evidently Hermione hadn’t been entirely thorough in keeping her parents informed about her life at school.
By the time they were finished, the four adults in the room were shaking their heads with incredulity. Fleur was giving Harry an appreciative look that had Hermione on edge before the part-Veela noticed and shot her a quick smile of reassurance. And Gabrielle, who had slipped into the room after she finished her own breakfast and sat quietly listening throughout the narrative, was beaming at Harry with an expression of pure adoration.
At this point Sirius added a bit more information giving his perspective to the part about third year and their rescue of him, then shared his story of wrongful incarceration. Once he finished, he and Monsieur Delacour retired to their host’s study to further discuss strategy. When questioned about this later, Sirius would only reply with a sly smile, “It’s quite an advantage to have a reporter in your back pocket.”
In any case, it was left to the females of the Delacour family to entertain their other guests for the remainder of the day. They were all quite agreeable to this course of action. Mrs. Granger was fascinated with the French chateau, and Madame Delacour was delighted to share it with her. Harry could think of a lot of things worse than spending time in the company of Hermione and Fleur, as long as Gabrielle wasn’t being too much of a nuisance. As far as he was concerned, his summer had taken a definite turn for the better, and Hermione agreed wholeheartedly.
The rest of the week followed much the same pattern for the teens. Mrs. Granger left the next morning to return to England, promising that she and her husband would come and stay with them on the weekends from now until their preparations were complete. Sirius joined the teens when Monsieur Delacour traveled to his office in Paris to begin laying the groundwork for the series of revelations that would set the wizarding world on its ear.
It turned out that there was a hippogriff colony in the woods not too far from the Delacour estate, so Buckbeak was released to rejoin his own kind, with a final nod of gratitude to Sirius and Harry for his rescue. While Sirius was sorry to part with his faithful companion of the past year, he knew the hippogriff would be far better off in the wild than he’d been locked up in an upper room at Grimmauld Place.
A few days after their arrival, Fleur received the news she’d been hoping for – an owl from Gringotts offering a job. As she excitedly prepared for her trip back to England, Harry noted conversationally that Bill Weasley worked at the goblin-run bank. The look he received back from his French friend indicated that she was already well aware of that fact. Hermione shot Harry a knowing smile as she took his hand and pulled him away so that Fleur could finish her packing, and perhaps fanaticize a bit about a tall, good-looking, red-haired wizard. With breathless hugs all around, she departed the following morning to a chorus of good wishes.
Resigned to the knowledge that Gabrielle was going to tag along nearly everywhere with them, Harry and Hermione resolved to try to enjoy the experience of having a younger sister. Occasionally Sirius would bail them out by inviting the precocious young girl to accompany him on some errand or other, so that the pair could spend some romantic time together in the beautiful French countryside.
By the end of the week Gabrielle would confide in Sirius that she was certain that Harry and Hermione would marry some day, but she asserted with all the solemnity that a nine year old can muster that that she intended to be Harry’s mistress when she was old enough. Somehow, the old Marauder managed to keep a straight face, but he took great delight in the teenaged couple’s flaming red faces when he shared this tidbit with them in private later.
While they all knew that they would soon be leaving the country, and the adorable little part-Veela would have to set her sights elsewhere, the old Marauder intended to get full teasing value before he let it go. Hermione only hoped that he wouldn’t share the embarrassing revelation with her mother, or she’d never hear the end of it.
One thing that surprised Harry was the seeming lack of response from Dumbledore, either to the charges stemming from the dementor attack or to his leaving Britain. The headmaster had only contacted him through Mr. Weasley on the night of the attack, and not been heard from since. Harry had more than half expected to see Fawkes appear in a flash of flames with a demand from Dumbledore that he return immediately.
But for some reason the ancient wizard had been keeping his distance from Harry Potter, for the entire summer now that he thought about it. And while that might have bothered him under other circumstances, had he been isolated and felt the whole world was against him, it wasn’t a problem now that he had Hermione, Sirius, and the Granger and Delacour families supporting him.
The following Monday, a few days before the scheduled date of Harry’s hearing at the Ministry of Magic in London, the first headlines appeared in Le Monde Magique , the French wizarding newspaper.
(translated from French)
Boy Who Lived Flees Britain!
Harry Potter Threatened with Arrest, Expulsion for Underage Magic Use
French Ministry of Magic to Offer Asylum
Accepts Potter’s Claim of Self-Defense
The story was immediately picked up by the wizarding press in the rest of Europe, followed soon thereafter by papers in other parts of the world. The following day another headline proclaimed that Harry was being offered a place at Beauxbatons, which was happy to accept Hermione as well. Durmstrang followed a few days later with their own offer to Harry, but despite the urging of their most famous alum, Viktor Krum, would not set aside their anti-muggleborn policy to include Hermione.
On the scheduled day of Harry’s hearing, at which he was found guilty due to his failure to appear, France’s representative to the International Confederation of Wizards denounced the actions of the British Ministry, calling their treatment of the Triwizard Champion a travesty of justice. He went on to assert that they should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of respect for the boy who saved us all.
Eventually the Daily Prophet could ignore the controversy no more. As the innuendoes about ‘what was really going on in Britain’ piled up in the pages of their competitors abroad, they were forced to break from their own Ministry’s line of lies and ridicule or lose all of their credibility as a newspaper.
One week after the first story broke in France,Britain’s magical newspaper of record entered the fray, belatedly but with a vengeance, devoting their entire front page to the controversy. Sirius now made full use of his ‘arrangement’ with Rita Skeeter that he’d made after that night in the hospital wing. For her part, she did what she did best, only this time her target was the British Ministry of Magic.
What is the Ministry Hiding?
Are Potter, Dumbledore Telling the Truth?
In her typically lurid prose, Skeeter painted a picture of an honest boy who’d been terribly wronged by the authorities. Who, though the odds had been stacked against him, had bravely fought through to victory in the tournament, only to be denounced as an attention-seeking showoff. She presented his and Dumbledore’s assertion that You Know Who had been behind his kidnapping at the conclusion of the Third Task, and had even been restored to life, as an open question that demanded further investigation for the safety and well-being of wizardingBritain. And she concluded by insinuating that the Ministry may have sent dementors after Potter to shut him up. Being unable to go after Dumbledore, they picked on the weaker target, only to have it backfire when he showed himself capable of defending himself from the terrifying creatures.
A firestorm of indignation swept through the magical community of the British Isles. Many who had willingly gone along with the paper’s previous depiction of Harry as unstable and deluded, now reconsidered. After all, the boy, who was already the most famous teen in Britain, had just won the Tri-Wizard Tournament – why would he need to make something up to get more attention? And why would Dumbledore have gone along with it? What if they’d been telling the truth all along?
Fudge’s unfortunate response was to try to arrest Rita Skeeter, but the beetle animagus easily evaded capture. His attempt to shut down the Daily Prophet met with similar failure, as the crowds packing Diagon Alley caught wind of it and physically prevented the Auror team from carrying out its assignment.
As a result, Fudge’s days in office were numbered, and his fate was sealed with the next exposé.
Sirius Black Innocent?
Pureblood Wizard Imprisoned Without Trial!
Potter Claims Pettigrew, Not Black, Was Secret Keeper
Again, Skeeter suggested a massive coverup by the Ministry of Magic, claiming that Fudge had suppressed evidence of Black’s innocence for more than a year. Already on shaky ground after the first blow, Fudge was soon removed from office by a no confidence vote, which even Lucius Malfoy’s gold could not avert.
Dumbledore was promptly reinstated as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, but once again declined the position of Minister. Instead, Amelia Bones, the Head of the DMLE, was elected and she quickly pledged to thoroughly investigate the allegations regarding both Harry Potter and Sirius Black, going so far as to travel to France to make a formal apology to the Boy Who Lived.
Amelia Susan Bones was an elderly, no-nonsense witch who through hard work and dedication had moved up through the Auror ranks to become head of the department. Her physical appearance – square jawed, short cropped gray hair, thick eyebrows, with a monocle in one eye – reinforced the impression of someone who was not to be messed with.
But this day she was on a mission that was decidedly outside her comfort zone: To apologize to a teenage boy, Harry Potter, on behalf of the British Ministry of Magic, and persuade him to return home. She hadn’t wanted to do this, just as she hadn’t really wanted the job of Minister of Magic. But that idiot Fudge had made such a mess of things that she had no other choice.
Albus Dumbledore had talked her into taking the position. He’d contacted her even before Fudge had resigned to urge her to become a candidate, claiming that they needed a strong, decisive leader at this critical time. She’d finally agreed, but only for the short term. She knew that her Head Auror, Rufus Scrimgeour, was interested in eventually ascending to the top spot and she’d moved him into her former position as Head of DMLE to give him more administrative experience. She and Dumbledore also agreed that he tended to be too easily swayed by public opinion to be considered as Minister at this time.
The first thing she had done upon taking office had been to meet with Dumbledore to discuss the current crises. After confirming that Voldemort had indeed returned, he’d advised her to remove the dementors from Azkaban and to negotiate with the giants. The first item made sense to her, and she was taking it under consideration, but the second seemed to be beyond her jurisdiction. After all, she was the Minister of Magic for Great Britain, and the giant reserve was in Russia. Why didn’t he make use of his contacts in the ICW for that mission?
Meeting with Harry Potter to try to smooth things over had been her idea, and Dumbledore had agreed. She’d been surprised, however, that he didn’t offer to meet with the boy himself. After all, the two of them were on the same side in the Voldemort debate. But the headmaster had offered no explanation for his reluctance, and she had assumed the responsibility herself.
She was accompanied by two Aurors, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks. Shacklebolt was an obvious choice, since he was in charge of the search for the escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, who was also somehow involved in this mess. Tonks, a rookie who had only recently joined the department, had been suggested by Dumbledore because she was related to Black, her mother being his cousin. She had her suspicions that Dumbledore had other reasons for having her bring these two particular Aurors, but could find no fault with his recommendation.
The three of them first traveled to Paris to meet with Monsieur Delacour, a high-ranking official in the French Ministry, and then flooed from his office to his home, where Potter was supposedly staying. Emerging from the green flames into the entry hall of what appeared to be a large mansion, Bones paused to take stock of the situation. The atmosphere was certainly not friendly, at best neutral, bordering on hostile. She surreptitiously placed her hand on her wand as the two Aurors moved to flank her.
Her suspicions were confirmed with the first request from her host. “Welcome to Chateau Delacour,” he stated with a broad sweep of his arm. “For the safety of our guests, I must request that you leave your wands here before proceeding further.”
“What! Surely you don’t expect …” she began to sputter. Delacour cut her off by raising his hands in a placating gesture.
“If you prefer, I will accept a wizarding oath that you will take no action against anyone on these premises.” She glared at him for a moment, then glanced to her two associates. Both shrugged, indicating that it was her call. Reluctantly she gave her oath, with Shacklebolt and Tonks doing likewise. Only then were the three visitors led through the door into the sitting room.
There, they encountered the object of their quest, Harry Potter, seated at one side of a table, flanked on his left by a bushy-haired girl that she assumed from the information in her briefing papers was his companion, Hermione Granger, and on his right by a strikingly beautiful blonde whom she recognized as the Beauxbatons Tri-Wizard champion, Fleur Delacour. On Granger’s left were two adults that she guessed were her parents, and on Delacour’s right was a woman who from her appearance was presumably her mother. As Monsieur Delacour made the introductions and took a position next to his wife, her assumptions were confirmed. In addition to these people, a house elf stood respectfully against the wall at one end of the room, and a large black dog sat at the opposite end.
Minister Bones took a seat across from Harry and was joined on either side by her two Aurors. She was not at all pleased with the adversarial nature of the seating arrangement, and attempted to ease the tension.
“Mr. Potter, on behalf of the Ministry of Magic, I wish to apologize for our actions of these past two months, in particular the notifications you were sent regarding your use of underage magic. I would also like to assure you that all charges have been dropped, and your conviction removed from your record. You are welcome to return to Britain and resume your education at Hogwarts.”
Harry had spent a lot of time with Sirius and Hermione discussing how he would respond. Sirius had eventually persuaded them that it would be to their advantage to keep the Ministry representatives off balance. They already had an advantage that the new Minister was unaware of – Shacklebolt and Tonks were both members of the Order of the Phoenix, and thus were ‘on their side’.
“Why?” Harry replied calmly. This monosyllabic response had the desired effect.
“I beg your pardon?” Minister Bones inquired, leaning forward uncertainly.
“Why are the charges being dropped?” he demanded. “Has the law changed since my conviction? Am I being given special treatment because of who I am? Or is the law selectively enforced depending on the whim of the current Minister of Magic?” Hermione reached under the table to grip his hand, and he calmed a bit.
“Or have you decided that what I did was not a crime? If so, why was I charged in the first place? My friend here researched the law and discovered rather quickly that underaged magic is permitted in situations of self-defense. And the only muggle present was my cousin, who already knows about magic. And yet I was informed that I’d violated the International Statute of Secrecy and Aurors were on their way to my house to snap my wand. Did your department do any investigation to determine the facts in the case?”
Amelia Bones felt her face heating up, from a mixture of irritation at Potter’s attitude and shame at some of the truth in his allegations. But he wasn’t finished yet.
“And why would I want to return to a country where there’s a madman running around who wants to kill me? Whose existence is denied by a government who has no idea what they’re doing? Why would I want to return to a country where justice is based on how famous you are or how much money you have?”
“Now see here, Mr. Potter!” the Minister shot back. “I will not stand for accusations of that sort! You are attacking the integrity of my government!” Amazingly, the boy across from her did not flinch. Belatedly, she recalled that he had faced a number of very unpleasant situations in the past few years, and stood up to creatures far more terrifying than an angry Minister of Magic.
Hermione slid a parchment over in front of Harry, and he glanced at it before continuing. “Accusations, Minister? Here are some facts. During my second year at Hogwarts, the Chamber of Secrets was opened. Minister Fudge came to the school and arrested Hagrid and sent him off to Azkaban, not because he had any evidence against him, but because ‘he had to be seen doing something’. He just so happened to be accompanied by Lucius Malfoy. When it was all over, Professor Dumbledore and I discovered that it was actually Malfoy himself who was responsible for the Chamber being opened.”
“Before my third year, I accidentally blew up my aunt. When Minister Fudge found me at the Leaky Cauldron, he said I wouldn’t be punished because of ‘circumstances’. In other words, because I was Harry Potter. But at the end of third year, after I’d met Sirius and found out he was innocent, Fudge wouldn’t even listen to a word Hermione and I were saying. He was going to have Sirius kissed right there on the spot without making any attempt to learn the truth.”
Bones looked like she wanted to say something at this point, but the row of stony faces opposite her gave her pause. Harry took a breath and went on. “Now, this past year began with a bunch of Death Eaters starting a riot at the Quidditch World Cup, somehow getting away scot-free while a dozen Ministry officials shot stunners at me instead. It continued with a competition in which I was forced by the Ministry to compete, despite not even entering, by a senior Ministry official who turned out to be under the Imperius all year! And it ended with me having to fight my way through a crowd of Death Eaters, probably some of the same ones from the World Cup, to escape from Voldemort after being used in some dark ritual to bring him back.”
Harry shook off another attempt by Hermione to calm him down and rose to his feet. “And what did Fudge do when he heard about it? Whined about how it can’t be true! And when I identified half a dozen of those Death Eaters, by name? He stood there and told me, in front of a whole roomful of witnesses mind you, that they had all been cleared because they were from very old families and had made DONATIONS to excellent causes! And instead of doing anything at all to investigate what I told him, he spent the next month slandering me in the press. To top it off, I get two dementors, who are supposed to be under the control of the Ministry, trying to kill me! Now you tell me, Minister Bones,” he shouted. “Just exactly why I should have ANY confidence in the integrity of your precious Ministry of Magic!”
Harry slammed back into his seat and angrily folded his arms across his chest, his fiery gaze daring her to repudiate his words. Almost in unison, Hermione and Fleur each reached out a soothing hand, Fleur resting hers on his arm while Hermione rubbed his shoulder. To her credit, Bones managed to keep her cool, remaining silent for a time, hoping to keep the situation from getting completely out of control while she formulated her response.
She took a moment to observe the others sitting at the table. Everyone on Harry’s side presented a unified front, each of their faces showing varying degrees of anger. Even the house elf had an irritated expression, which she’d never seen on a house elf before, and the dog looked like it was ready to attack at any second. But the most disturbing revelation was that both of her Aurors were nodding in sympathy with Potter’s claims, and she suddenly realized that she had no support in this room whatsoever.
She had done her homework before coming to this meeting, trying to learn as much about Potter’s situation as she could, although he had just revealed several items that had not been part of the information she’d been given. As these items seemed to come as no surprise to anyone else in the room, she was placed at a considerable disadvantage. She hated being the least informed person in a meeting.
Trying to regain her footing, she cleared her throat. “Mr. Potter, if these statements are correct I can understand your reluctance … I was not aware of some of these incidents. That is, the records on your activities that I have reviewed …”
“Oh yes, let’s not forget my ‘prior record’,” Harry broke in. “For my supposed first offense I was accused of magic I didn’t even do – it was a house elf.” He gestured to the elf standing against the wall, who began nodding his head vigorously. “That got me a warning letter and I was locked up for a week. But the next year when I actually did something and blew up my aunt I got let off with a pat on the head.”
Bones could only shake her head in helpless confusion. Locked up? Potter had never been incarcerated. House elf? She finally found her voice. “You had a house elf in your muggle home? How …?”
“Dobby wasn’t my house elf, he belonged to Malfoy at the time,” Harry replied. But this did nothing to reduce her confusion, but instead increased it.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” she admitted, slumping back in her chair in surrender.
“Madame, may I suggest that a pensieve might be of use?” Monsieur Delacour inquired in a soothing voice. There was also a patronizing note in his offer that suggested that the Frenchman was enjoying the discomfort of his English counterpart.
“You have a pensieve?” Bones asked, turning to where he was seated. As soon as these words left her mouth she inwardly winced at the look on his face. His expression clearly indicated that of course he was important enough to have access to a pensieve and that she had insulted him by even hinting otherwise.
Completely defeated, she dropped her head in a slight bow. “Of course. Yes, I very much appreciate your offer.”
Bones was not very surprised to learn that Delacour already had a pensieve at the manor, and as it was none of her business she didn’t ask where or from whom he had obtained it. She also quickly discovered that with Delacour’s assistance Harry’s memories had already been removed and bottled, and that Granger had efficiently labeled and catalogued them. She further assumed, correctly, that they had previously been viewed by everyone on Potter’s side of the table. Harry, Hermione, and Fleur took turns guiding the Minister and the two Aurors through them, sharing the task of playing tour guide.
After some thought, Bones decided that it would be less confusing to take the memories in chronological order, even though the most important memories were likely the most recent. Accordingly, she surprised them by first requesting Harry’s confrontation with Quirrell in his first year. She emerged shaking her head in disbelief that three first year students had made their way through a series of obstacles that were presumably intended to deter an experienced wizard. She then listened intently as Harry explained why his mere touch had been so damaging to the former defense professor, and filed that information away for later contemplation.
The next memory she wanted to see was Harry’s encounter with Dobby at Privet Drive prior to his second year. Although her primary reason was to be able to clear the incident from his record, she did not miss the implication behind the fact that LuciusMalfoy’s house elf had advance knowledge of the opening of the Chamber. Hermione, her guide for this memory, made sure to point it out anyway.
Next, Harry had to relive with her the battle with the basilisk and the specter of young Tom Riddle, because Hermione and Fleur were still unable to watch the basilisk attack Harry without being severely shaken. Hermione returned to review the scene afterward in Dumbledore’s office in which Dobby was freed and Malfoy all but admitted his guilt.
After a break for a bite to eat, Fleur took her first turn as guide with the memory of Harry blowing up his aunt, and Fudge’s reaction at the Leaky Cauldron. While they were in the pensieve Harry, Hermione, and Sirius discussed the revelations that would come up next. They knew that they had to reveal Sirius’s illegal animagus form, but did they want to divulge Hermione’s use of the time turner?
Harry and Hermione both decided to go along for the memory of the night they discovered Pettigrew. They began at Hagrid’s, finding Scabbers in the cupboard, and continued into the Shrieking Shack, finishing with Harry and Hermione passing out by the lake as the dementors swarmed over them. Bones emerged from this memory and promptly turned to Shacklebolt and Tonks.
“Auror Shacklebolt, please inform Director Scrimgeour that as of this moment the search for Sirius Black is officially discontinued. We shall schedule a press conference to announce that he is being cleared of all charges. His name is to be replaced on our wanted list with that of Peter Pettigrew.” She paused and shot him a keen look. “I suspect that your pursuit of Black for the past year has not consumed much effort on your part?” Shacklebolt shook his head.
“No ma’am. I believe I made better use of my time, but I am willing to accept whatever disciplinary action is coming to me,” he stated. Bones paused for several seconds, then nodded and turned back to the rest of the group.
“Having taken care of that item of business, I think an introduction is in order,” she declared, staring at the large black dog. “Then perhaps we can all get better acquainted over some tea.”
Sirius transformed back into himself, and the next hour or so was spent with him explaining to Minister Bones more about how he came to be incarcerated without a trial, his escape, and his part of the drama at Hogwarts that year. Tonks and Shacklebolt took the opportunity to introduce themselves to Harry. Both of them had been slated to be part of a group of Order members who planned to pick Harry up from Privet Drive and take him to their headquarters prior to his trial at the Ministry. Obviously, those plans had been scrapped when they learned that Harry had not only already left his relatives’ house, but was no longer even in the country.
“You and Sirius caused quite a stir with that one,” Tonks informed him with a grin. “Never seen Molly in such a state. She blamed Sirius for corrupting you, but Ron and Ginny thought that you and Hermione were already scheming about something like this before you’d even left school. Harry and Hermione shared a glance. They needed to write to Ron, Ginny, and Neville as soon as they could to let them know that was going on. Tonks continued, “The most interesting thing was the way Dumbledore took it in stride. I swear, nothing fazes that man. At the next meeting of the Order he only talked about how we might turn this new development to our advantage.”
Before Harry could ask any more about how things were going back home, Bones and Sirius ended their discussion. The new Minister then turned to Harry and Hermione and informed them that she had already been made aware of their use of the time turner to rescue Sirius and Buckbeak, and that no charges would be forthcoming on those actions either.
“The only part of the sequence of events that is still not clear to me,” she added. “Is who summoned the patronus that saved you three from the dementors by the lake? I thought it might have been Professor Snape, but …”
“It was Harry!” Hermione corrected her at once. “He and I were at on the other side of the lake with Buckbeak. He wanted to find out who it was, and realized just in time that it was himself.”
“But … that must have been an extremely powerful patronus!” Bones objected. “To repel all those dementors.” Hermione simply beamed at Harry with pride, which was echoed in the faces of Sirius and her parents. Fleur and the other Delacours also smiled at the modest teen who merely shrugged. Realizing that it was the truth, Bones could only stare.
“Professor Lupin taught me that year because the dementors affected me so badly,” he explained reluctantly. “They make me remember the night my mum and dad died.” A sober quiet descended on the room, and Hermione moved next to Harry and put her arms around him in a comforting hug.
After a respectful interval Bones broke the silence. “So I suppose you did not have too much difficulty handling just two dementors a fortnight ago.”
Harry shook his head. “No ma’am, but we are concerned about where they came from.” He nodded to Hermione and she went through their analysis and most probable conclusion that someone in the Ministry had sent them to Little Whinging deliberately. Bones was reluctantly forced to agree with their reasoning, and vowed that tracking down the culprit would be a top priority.
At this point they were ready to tackle the memories of the tournament and its aftermath. After a quick consultation with Sirius and Fleur, Harry and Hermione decided to add two more. First, Hermione shared her memory of September 1, when the imposter Moody made his first public appearance.
When she, Bones, Shacklebolt, and Tonks emerged from the pensieve, Bones was shaking her head. “He was quite the actor, I’ll give him that. I worked with that man for thirty years and I could see that something was off, but nothing I could put my finger on. I’m not surprised that no one else caught on. What’s next?”
Fleur then guided the three visitors through her memory of the night of October 31, when the names of the champions came out of the goblet. This time, the focus was on the actions of Crouch, and they watched him carefully as a perplexed Harry Potter joined Fleur and her two fellow champions in the anteroom. While she was embarrassed for the way she’d reacted at the time, they felt that being removed from most of the activity, her viewpoint would give them a better perspective on the actions of the Director of International Magical Cooperation.
Curiously, he did not participate in the conversation at all, standing back in the shadows. It was only when he was questioned directly that he finally spoke. “We must follow the rules, and the rules state clearly that those people whose names come out of the Goblet of fire are bound to compete in the tournament.” Then he fell silent again as the controversy resumed. Later, when he was asked to give the instructions to the champions, he seemed to have been in something of a daze. When he finished giving his instructions, Dumbledore was looking at him with some concern, and inquired if he wished to stay the night. Crouch turned him down, and rather brusquely declined even stopping for a drink before returning to his office.
This time Bones was nodding as she exited the pensive memory. “In hindsight, I can see the indications that he was under an Imperius,” she agreed. Even Dumbledore could see he wasn’t quite right, and he doesn’t work with him every day. I don’t understand why young Weasley never noticed anything.”
Harry managed to refrain from pointing out that it might have been from having his head so far up his arse, although he and Hermione shared a knowing smirk. Then he took a deep breath, for it was now time for him to take the visitors through his memories of the night of the Third Task.
Having given the matter some thought while the visitors from the Ministry were in the pensieve with Hermione and Fleur, he told them that he wanted to show them three memories, but not necessarily in the order they happened. He would save the biggest one for last.
First, they viewed his encounter with the imposter Moody in the Defense Professor’s office, where Barty, Jr. revealed the details of the plot. Next, he took them through the confrontation with Fudge in the hospital wing, where the former Minister adamantly denied the possibility that Voldemort had returned to life. Finally, he revealed the scene in the graveyard at Riddle Manor, from the time Cedric was killed to his escape with the Cup portkey.
As soon as they came out of this memory, Bones and Shacklebolt immediately grabbed some parchment and quills and began writing furiously. As soon as they finished, they compared notes.
“I have thirty one,” Bones announced, “But there were two I didn’t recognize.”
“Thirty two for me,” Shacklebolt replied. “Only twenty I could identify, though. Did you count Pettigrew?” Bones pressed her lips together and nodded while adding this name to her list. Meanwhile Shacklebolt was looking back and forth, copying names from her list to his.
“I think the tall one was Rowle,” Shacklebolt suggested. “I ran across his file in Sweden a few years ago. And you only wrote down one of the Carrows. Amycus was lurking behind his sister.”
“Good, that’s all of them, then,” Bones concluded with satisfaction. “Add these to the ones in Azkaban, plus the ones known to have been killed, and I think we’ve accounted for nearly the whole lot.”
She turned to Harry and the others in the room. “Our best estimates are that Voldemort had no more than fifty Death Eaters, even at the height of his power,” she explained. “You’ve given us a golden opportunity here. Fortunately, I don’t think it’s too late. If we waited a while longer, gave him time to build up his ranks … well, no use worrying about that now. If we move quickly, we can take them all into custody before they realize we’re on to them.”
Harry and Hermione were stunned. Here was a Minister of Magic taking decisive action against their enemies, entirely on the basis of Harry’s word. It was something that was completely outside their experience. Bones paused when she noticed their discomfort.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Potter,” she added, softening her voice. “I didn’t mean to overlook or diminish what you went through that night. It was one of the most courageous actions I’ve ever witnessed.” Harry shook his head, attempting to deflect her praise, but it was echoed by everyone else present, while Hermione wrapped her arm around him from one side and Sirius did the same on the other.
When the acclamation had quieted down, Hermione spoke up. “But Minister Bones, can you really do that? How can you arrest them based just on Harry’s evidence?” Having recently reviewed the memory from third year, she recalled Dumbledore’s comment about the word of two underage wizards not being very convincing. “Don’t some of them, like Mr. Malfoy, have quite a lot of political influence?”
Bones adjusted her monocle and peered at her. “That is a fair question, Miss Granger,” she responded. “That’s why the timing is so important. Right now, Harry Potter’s mistreatment by the Ministry is the hottest story going. The wizarding public is feeling guilty as well, because they bought into the slander. He and Dumbledore are heroes again. I daresay he’s at the peak of his popularity. People will be willing to believe what he has to say, at least for a while. And from a political standpoint, it’s extremely advantageous in gaining the public’s support if you can announce a problem and at the same time announce the measures you’re taking to address it.”
Taking another look at the list in her hands, Bones frowned. “Kingsley, how many Aurors do we have that we can assign to this and trust that they will keep it under wraps until we have them all in custody? If there’s even the slightest hint of what we’re up to the whole thing will fall apart. It could turn into a disaster if they were ready for us and fought back, or attacked somewhere else while we were raiding an empty house.”
Shacklebolt did the mental arithmetic and shook his head. “If you’re talking absolute, unquestioned loyalty, probably a little more than half our force. I don’t think we could even muster up two Aurors per arrest.”
Bones fretted, “But it needs to be simultaneous, or the later ones could get warned off.”
Monsieur Delacour stepped forward. “Madame, if I may? As you know, my role in our Ministry is Senior Advisor to the Minister on Matters of Security. Ever since my daughter came home and informed me of Dumbledore’s announcement of Voldemort’s return at their leaving feast, my government has been making preparations. We have three companies of Aurors trained and ready for just such an operation. If you are interested in a cooperative arrangement between our two governments, I believe we can lend you some support.”
Bones breathed a sigh of relief and quickly accepted his offer. Delacour promised to arrange a meeting between the two ministers as quickly as possible. At that point everyone was glad to retire to the dining room for a late dinner. When the meal had concluded with a toast to a new era of Anglo-French cooperation, the Delacours invited their visitors to stay the night.
With heartfelt appreciation, Bones regretfully declined, explaining that she was still buried in work relating to the governmental transition process. Tonks then asked for a moment to speak with her cousin before they left, and Bones allowed her to stay behind for a brief period while she and Shacklebolt returned to the Ministry building in London.
Instead of the heartwarming family reunion Minister Bones might have expected to occur after she left, the pink-haired Auror quickly pulled Harry and Sirius together for a private word.
“Harry, I’ve learned something important that I think you need to hear,” she whispered in a solemn voice that belied her flamboyant appearance. “You know that prophecy at the Ministry that the Order has been guarding?” Harry shot a surprised look at Sirius, then turned back to Tonks and nodded.
“It’s about you.”