Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Harry Potter or Oh My Goddess.
Cornelius Fudge squirmed slightly as he eyed off the people sitting on the other side of his desk. "Out of the question," the Minister of Magic stated as firmly as he could.
"It is absolutely not out of the question," Albus Dumbledore replied even more firmly, "you have the power to remove the dementors from Hogwarts and you must do so as soon as possible."
"They are necessary," Fudge insisted, "we need to protect the students from Pettigrew."
Amelia Bones looked furious. "Right now, the biggest threat to the students are the dementors themselves! Or did you fail to notice how the Dementors boarded the Hogwarts Express and came far too close to the students?"
"That was due to their orders not being clear enough," Fudge tried to explain, "we've addressed that now."
"I'm sure that will be of great comfort to the students who came face to face with those horrors," Dumbledore replied in an acid tone, "and what assurance do we have that the new orders issued to the dementors will be any better than the last set?"
"I trust their handlers," Fudge retorted, sticking out his chin defiantly, "or are you implying that they are not good enough to do their jobs?"
"It isn't the handlers that I'm worried about," Dumbledore said evenly, "the fact remains that our control over the dementors has been tenuous at the best of times. Remember how the Ministry lost control over them completely on a few key occasions during the war against Voldemort."
As Fudge shuddered at hearing the name of the Dark Lord, Amelia stifled her own instinctive flinch to press home her point. "Look, we're already receiving letters from angry parents regarding the incident on the Express. The longer the dementors are near the students, the more incidents we will have. We would be better served by posting a few Aurors near the school and tightening up the wards."
"We can't afford that," Fudge insisted, "the budget won't stretch that far."
"It could be managed if you were of a mind to," Dumbledore observed, "but putting that to one side. I am of the view that posting dementors at Hogwarts will in no way help protect the students from whatever Peter Pettigrew might have planned. The only thing they do is endanger the students. You must remove them at once."
"They stay," Fudge said flatly.
Amelia glanced at Dumbledore, who looked resigned. "Very well," the head of the DMLE said, "but I want written orders to that effect. With your signature on them."
"Is that really necessary?" Fudge whined, "I'm sure we can just do this through normal channels."
"There are no normal channels for this, Minister," Madam Bones said icily, "if you want dementors to guard Hogwarts, you're going to have to submit a written order to that effect to the DMLE."
"And just so we're clear on this, Cornelius," Albus added, "Madam Bones and I will be submitting written statements outlining our opposition to this course of action. We will be including all of the arguments that we have made against this decision."
"Now, there's no need for that!" Fudge blustered, only to wilt as he received glares in response.
"It is absolutely necessary," Amelia said firmly, "the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and the head of the DMLE have both stated their opposition to this and we will make sure that it is on the record. As will be your decision to ignore our advice and protests."
Dumbledore leaned forward in his chair. "There will be no doubts about it, Minister. This decision is yours and yours alone. When it all goes wrong, we want there to be no doubt whatsoever about who is responsible."
"You mean if it goes wrong," Fudge protested weakly.
"No, I mean when," Dumbledore replied as he relaxed his posture somewhat, "I am fully convinced that the presence of the dementors at Hogwarts will result in something terrible happening. I just hope that my staff and I will be able to prevent it from being a true tragedy."
"And when it happens, Minister, it will be your neck on the chopping block," Amelia ground out, "there will be no blame-shifting going on. We will have those orders in writing or the dementors will be returned to Azkaban."
Fudge sweated as he took in the expressions on the faces across from him. Swallowing past a lump in his throat, he reached for a quill and parchment.
Harry Potter reviewed his class schedule as he settled in for breakfast. After the close encounter with dementors on the Express, the Welcoming Feast had been a fairly subdued affair. A night of sleep seemed to have allowed the student body to recover, however, so the Great Hall was back to the familiar atmosphere that accompanied breakfast.
Harry had been unsure of which elective subjects to choose when the second-year students had been asked to select them, and as such had asked his family for advice. Belldandy had informed him that Harry would be better off learning Divination at home. Urd had advised that Care of Magical Creatures was a bit of a niche subject that would not be all that useful in the long term. She had recommended a few books that she claimed would give Harry all the information he needed to know about magical creatures, including one by some person called Newt Scamander. Sirius had recommended Muggle Studies because "it'll be easy" while Remus had recommended against it for the same reason.
In the end it had been Skuld's advice that had guided Harry's choices. She had recommended Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. She had explained that the two subjects between them would give an excellent grounding for many other magical disciplines. Harry had reasoned that since Skuld had recently been studying for her Sertifikat av Generell Magi that she would be very familiar with what subjects were the most useful and had followed her advice. Ron had been a little put out when he had learned this as it meant that the pair would not be sharing their elective classes, the red-haired boy choosing Care of Magical Creatures and Divination. Hermione had approved, though she had apparently decided to take all of the elective subjects on offer even though there was not enough time in the schedule to attend every class.
Ron was commenting on this as he saw Hermione's schedule, noting that she had three classes all happening at the same time. Harry was going to be sharing one of those classes, with Arithmancy being his first subject for the day. Hermione seemed confident that she could somehow attend all of her classes with no trouble, ignoring Ron's concerns outright.
After finishing breakfast, Harry headed off to the Arithmancy classroom. He was surprised to see Hermione walking with Ron and Neville in the general direction of the Divination class, as he knew that Hermione was not only enrolled in Arithmancy but had expressed a strong interest in the subject. Not wanting to be late, Harry dismissed the oddity from his mind and walked towards the classroom that Professor Septima Vector had helpfully provided directions for with his class schedule. He quickly found himself in the company of Draco Malfoy, who was noticeably not accompanied by his usual companions of Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe.
"Potter. It is good to see you." Draco said formally.
"Malfoy. Likewise. I wasn't expecting to see you in this class." Harry replied.
Draco shrugged, ignoring the attempts of Pansy Parkinson to attract his attention. "Father felt that this would be more useful than Ancient Runes, Divination or Muggle Studies. I would have preferred the latter myself, particularly after talking to mother about it, but Father was adamant."
Harry chuckled slightly at the explanation. "I'm not sure I'd get a lot out of Muggle Studies myself. So, you're also taking Care of Magical Creatures?"
"Yes," Draco said, looking thoughtful, "Father was against it. He said it was too plebeian. I just said that I could study the subject without wanting to make a career out of it."
Harry chuckled again. That certainly sounded like the Lucius Malfoy he had heard Sirius talk about. "You're interested in animals, then?"
Draco smiled slightly. "To a degree. Mother introduced me to riding when I was younger and I've always liked it. I guess it carries over to my love of flying as well – I just love the sensation of going faster than I could ever manage on my own."
Harry nodded, understanding the feeling. "You're up for Quidditch again this year, aren't you?"
Draco nodded firmly. "Of course. After last year I feel like I've actually earned my place on the team." Draco paused to glance at Harry. "Don't expect to be lucky like you were last year."
Harry laughed openly at that. Draco had been fairly put out when Harry had caught the snitch at the complete opposite end of the stadium that the Malfoy heir had been flying in. "I make my own luck, Malfoy. And I'm looking forward to our next game."
Draco smirked in response, before he scowled slightly. "Draco," the blond boy said after a moment.
"Pardon?" Harry asked, slightly confused.
"We've known each other long enough that we can let some formality go," Draco explained, "so please, just call me Draco."
Harry smiled warmly. "Thank you, and please call me Harry," he said, extending his hand.
Draco smiled back and shook the offered hand, before turning to enter the Arithmancy classroom. Upon entering, Harry was surprised to see Hermione already sitting at a desk in the front row. Leaving Draco to deal with a simpering Pansy, Harry hurried up to the front of the room and sat next to Hermione.
"Didn't you go to Divination?" Harry asked in a low tone.
"Of course," Hermione answered simply, "though I'm not very impressed by it."
"But," Harry went on, confused, "isn't that class starting right about now?"
"It is," Hermione replied, "but right now you should be more concerned that Professor Vector is about to start this one."
Harry turned his attention to where Arithmancy Professor was waiting at the front of the classroom. After calling the roll, the stern teacher began her lecture as she paced at the front of the room.
"First of all, I need to tell you what Arithmancy is. In short, it is the study of predicting the future with numbers."
At that, Professor Vector stopped pacing in front of the blackboard. "That is an overly simplistic explanation for a complicated subject. If any of you are here to learn how to predict next month's Quidditch scores, I would advise you to leave now and apply to transfer to the Divination class. That sort of prediction is not what Arithmancy is about."
The Professor resumed pacing. "Arithmancy is more about a rigorous approach to prediction. You will spend as much time calculating probabilities as you will trying to divine some future event. This means that you will need a thorough grounding in mathematics and logic, subjects that you will be learning during this course."
Stopping by her desk, Professor Vector cast her gaze over the assembled students. "You may have heard that this is a difficult subject and that I am a strict teacher. I will tell you now that both statements are correct. There is a lot to learn in this course and I have no time for mischief and time-wasting. But you will find that those who truly apply themselves to this subject will excel across the board. What you learn here can be applied to many aspects of magic."
A gesture from the Professor's wand sent copies of the course curriculum flying from her desk to each student. "For those who wish to study ahead, the full structure of this course is right there. Now, let us start with basic mathematical principles…"
Peter Pettigrew put down his quill and rubbed his wrist which had started aching. He had not written much of anything since leaving Hogwarts, and his current efforts were reminding him of that.
Sighing slightly, Peter looked around the decrepit and apparently abandoned flat in Nocturn Alley that he had established himself in. He would have preferred something closer to Hogwarts, but Hogsmeade was depressingly short of empty buildings for somebody wanted by the law to hide in. The only option in Hogsmeade was the Shrieking Shack, which Pettigrew would not even consider. The Marauders had learned of the secret passage to the Shrieking Shack from Albus Dumbledore himself, there was no way that the building was not being monitored.
Peter had avoided Azkaban after the fall of the Dark Lord and he intended to keep up his perfect record of evading the law.
His current problem was trying to figure out a way of getting into Hogwarts. His first attempt was to sneak in using his animagus form. That had nearly ended in disaster, as it seemed that somebody had erected animagus detection wards around the outside of Hogwarts' existing wards. The only good news in the whole affair was that the animagus detection wards almost certainly did not extend inside the school, so if Peter could get inside then he could sneak around as Wormtail as much as he liked.
It was the process of getting inside that was the issue. Peter was under no illusions regarding his ability to sneak in without being detected. Even if the dementors had not been present, Pettigrew had never been all that good at avoiding notice or moving quietly. His animagus form was a blessing in this regard as it made sneaking around much easier. With that avenue of approach neutralised, Peter was left to whatever he could manage in his human form.
This had led him to the idea of using one of the many secret passages that allowed access to Hogwarts. In their seven years at the school, the Marauders had mapped many such passages. The full history of these secret ways was lost, though the appearance of one had caused the Marauders to speculate that it had been installed by the Founders themselves. The others were the efforts of crafty students or members of staff, often it was only the location of the entrance within the school that gave any hint of just who might had created it. The passage that led from an abandoned potions laboratory in the dungeons to the seventh year's girl's bathroom in the Hufflepuff dorms had raised endless speculation amongst the Marauders after they had discovered it.
Unfortunately for Peter, he no longer had access to the Marauders' Map that held all of the information on secret passages that the four Gryffindor students had been able to discover. As a consequence, Pettigrew was trying to dredge up some very old memories and recreate the original notes. It was slow going, and required many trips to Hogsmeade in order to jog his memory. Each trip had to be planned carefully in order to avoid discovery, and invariably had to take place at night. This alone was playing havoc with Peter's sleeping patterns.
There was also the fact that he had to assume that the staff at Hogwarts would be fully aware of any of the secret passages that the Marauders had discovered. It was no coincidence that Remus Lupin had been hired as the DADA Professor soon after Peter's first disastrous attempt to infiltrate the school, it was no doubt part of Dumbledore's efforts to counter any move Pettigrew might make. Lupin might have been the most reserved and cautious of the Marauders, but he had also been the most effective planner and their best pranks had usually had a lot of influence from Moony in their development. If anybody would know how to counter Peter, Remus was by far the best choice.
Pettigrew looked down at his notes. He had established the location of five passages so far. Most of them led to parts of the school that were far from where he wanted to be, and so he was keeping them in reserve in case he had no choice. All five were also in extremely bad shape, which had caused the Marauders to discount them as being too unsafe to use on a regular basis. The passage of time had not changed this in the slightest, and Peter was not any keener to risk his neck now as he had been in the past.
The last resort was also the safest. The passage from the Shrieking Shack to Hogswarts was easily the safest to use in terms of the state of the structure. Unfortunately, it was also the most well-known of the "secret" passages and Peter was convinced that any attempt to use it would see him welcomed at wandpoint the instant he exited the passage at the Whomping Willow.
Sighing again, Pettigrew picked up his quill and returned to his work. The Dark Lord was getting more impatient by the day, Peter dare not delay any longer than absolutely necessary.
Harry's first quidditch match of the school year was approaching, and the level of anticipation in the school seemed to grow with every day. In part this was thanks to it being the notorious grudge match of Gryffindor versus Slytherin, but it was also thanks to everybody seeking some sort of distraction from the oppressive presence of the dementors.
The deteriorating weather also added to the tension.
"I don't like the look of that rain," Hermione said at lunch the day before the match was scheduled, staring at the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall, "surely they can't expect you to play in conditions like this!"
Ron shook his head as he helped himself to a sandwich. "The rules don't allow for games to be cancelled due to bad weather, Hermione. There was one game that was interrupted by a tornado that destroyed half the stands in the stadium, but all they did was call for a pause in play until it had moved on."
"That's insane!" Hermione exclaimed. "Don't they have any concern for the well-being of the players and spectators?"
"Er, don't forget that this is a game with flying cannonballs," Harry pointed out, "in the professional leagues, broken bones and other injuries are common place."
Hermione blinked a few times before she turned her attention to her soup, muttering something about a total lack of common sense.
"Please, Granger, do remember that most of those injuries are easily cleared up with a few potions," Draco Malfoy said as he approached the Gryffindor table, "it isn't like the muggle world."
"Looking forward to the game, Draco?" Harry greeted the blond Slytherin boy.
Draco smiled wryly. "Of course," he said simply, "though Flint seemed to have cold feet regarding the weather. He even went so far as to suggest that the team Seeker should come down ill at the last moment to force the game to be re-scheduled. Maybe he has more in common with Granger than I had thought."
"I would never suggest faking illness for something like that!" Hermione snapped.
"As you say," Malfoy replied agreeably, "and I wouldn't contemplate doing it either. Flint wants to go professional after Hogwarts, so I told him that the pro teams would play on in all weather conditions and that schedules were never changed due to player availability."
Ron chuckled as he thought it over. "I bet that went down a treat."
Draco smirked. "It certainly got him to quiet down. While I can't say that I like the idea of flying in the middle of a storm, I'll need the experience if I am to ever consider a career in professional Quidditch later on."
"Do you think you might?" Harry asked, interested in Draco's plans for the future.
Draco shrugged in response. "I have no idea at this point, but I'd like to keep that option available if I can. I'll see you in class later, Harry."
"See you!" Harry replied as he returned to his lunch. His fellow Gryffindors were used to the odd relationship the Boy-Who-Lived had with the Malfoy scion and resumed eating.
Unusually, the Defence Against the Dark Arts class that afternoon was taught by Professor Snape instead of Remus Lupin. The explanation given was that Professor Lupin was indisposed but would be back for their next lesson. Hermione was put out when Professor Snape set the class to studying werewolves rather than the hinky-punks on the schedule, but beyond that the class passed without incident. In light of the fact that Snape was only substituting, he refrained from assigning any homework but warned the class that Professor Lupin was expecting better than normal on their current assignments.
The following day saw the weather had degenerated into a full storm, with torrential rain and winds that occasionally drowned out the sound of conversation with the noise they created. Harry cast several charms on his Quidditch uniform to help keep himself dry, but was resigned to the fact that he was almost certainly going to be utterly drenched and chilled to the bone by the end of the game. He was just hoping that the snitch would make an early appearance so that the game would end quickly.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the snitch was particularly elusive to start with. Even with the Impervius charm on his glasses that repelled water and kept his eyesight fairly clear, the conditions were such that Harry could hardly see the other players. He had a few narrow misses from bludgers that seemingly came out of nowhere before Wood called for a time out.
"What's the score?" Harry asked as he joined his teammates on the ground.
"We're tied," Wood said as if it were the end of the world, "you'll have to catch the snitch quickly or we'll be here all night!"
"I'm trying," Harry defended himself, "but I can barely see what's going on with all the rain!"
Hooch blew her whistle to signal the resumption of play, and the Gryffindor team all looked at each other in resignation.
"Back to it, then," Fred said wearily as he remounted his broom.
Protected from the elements by some strategically placed charms and warm clothing, Belldandy sipped at some hot chocolate as she watched the match from the Gryffindor section of the stands. "This weather certainly makes it more exciting!"
Sirius eyed her warily as he chewed on his pastry. He could not recall any Quidditch matches being played in weather this atrocious when he had been a student.
"I think it is all a bit dangerous," Skuld said as she watched the players get buffeted by the gale-force wind, "they really should amend the rules to allow for this kind of thing."
"Not much chance of that," Sirius replied after he had finished swallowing his food, "the fans are pretty conservative when it comes to the rules of the game."
"I say, is that the snitch?" Belldandy suddenly exclaimed, catching the attention of those around her.
"I think it is," Skuld replied excitedly, "it looks like both seekers have spotted it!"
"Come on, Harry!" Sirius roared, trying to be heard over the storm, "catch it quick!"
The trio watched as Harry and Draco both raced towards the snitch, the pair of seekers flying quite high over the stadium.
"Hang on, something's not right," Skuld said, sounding concerned, "what's that near Harry?"
Sirius quickly pulled up his omnioculars and had a closer look. "Bloody hell! Dementors!"
"What?!" Belldandy cried as she took a closer look. "They're going after Harry!"
"Damn it all," Sirius shouted as he pulled out his wand, "quick, Patronus charms!"
Sirius' own corporeal Patronus – appropriately shaped like a dog – was quickly joined by others from nearby staff members. They were all eclipsed by the Patronus charms from Belldandy and Skuld, both of which were so bright that nobody could make out their forms. Sirius held his breath as he saw the Patronus charms race towards his godson, hoping that they would reach Harry before the dementors did. For a moment it looked like they might be too late, but the first Patronus form reached Harry just seconds before the first of what appeared to be over one hundred dementors reached the Gryffindor seeker. Harry appeared to be shaken by the close encounter, however, and was plummeting to the ground at a dangerous rate.
"He's going to crash at this rate," Sirius half-shouted, "get ready with some cushioning charms!"
Skuld pointed at where Draco Malfoy was also descending, seemingly having lost control. "Watch that one! He'll need help as well!"
Minerva McGonagall was quick to respond, sprinting towards the grounds with her wand in hand. Two quick charms saw the ground underneath the two Seekers change into something soft, while Filius Flitwick followed up with charms that seemed to at least slow the two boys down. An instant later the pair hit the ground almost at the same time, Harry losing his broom which was swept away by the wind. Belldandy rushed onto the ground towards her adopted son, who rolled over weakly and held up his hand.
"I don't believe it, he still managed to catch the bloody snitch!" Sirius yelped. Hooch blew her whistle to signal the end of the game, and staff members rushed onto the pitch to see to the two fallen Seekers.
As Sirius approached Harry, he saw that Belldandy had arrived first and was already cradling him. Sirius caught sight of her face and was taken aback by the look of anguish that had appeared there.
"Whoa!" Skuld said from next to Sirius, "I've never seen big sis that upset before!"
"Me neither," Sirius replied, "though there was that time with-"
He stopped cold as a memory surfaced. He took another look at Belldandy, who had now cast a levitation charm on Harry and was moving him in the general direction of the infirmary, Poppy Pomfrey doing the same with Draco Malfoy.
"Skuld," Sirius said urgently, catching the full attention of the younger woman, "go with Belldandy and make sure everything is alright. I've got to go and put out some political fires before the whole world burns down."
Skuld looked puzzled but nodded quickly and hurried off after her sister. Sirius looked around and spotted the Headmaster off to one side, apparently talking to the two team captains.
"Dumbledore!" Sirius roared as he sprinted over to the small huddle of people, "we've got to get moving, now!"
Albus Dumbledore looked over from his terse conversation with Wood and Flint, wondering what it was that had the Head of House Black so worked up. "Is Harry well, Sirius?"
Sirius shook his head as he came up to the Headmaster. "He looks OK enough, but we've got something more pressing to handle!"
Turning to the two Quidditch captains, Sirius gestured for them to leave. After a moment of confusion, the pair headed off towards the changing rooms.
"Really, Sirius, what has possessed you?" Dumbledore said, annoyed at how Sirius had just dismissed the students he had been talking to.
"Albus, we have to get to the Ministry right now. We'll grab Amelia on the way and get to Fudge just as soon as is humanly possible." Sirius stated as if giving orders.
"Why in Merlin's name should we do that? Certainly, this will need to be dealt with, but surely we can see to the welfare of the students first?" Dumbledore inquired.
"Because Belldandy just saw her son get attacked by a horde of dementors," Sirius replied in a severe tone, "dementors placed here at Fudge's personal order. She just saw her son almost killed by that idiot's stupidity. How do you think she'll react when she stops worrying about Harry's health and starts thinking things through?"
Dumbledore paused, before he remembered a confrontation between Belldandy and his Potions Professor that had occurred during Harry's first year at Hogwarts.
"Right," he said, abruptly turning towards the castle, "we'll take the floo in my office. Minerva!"
The Deputy Headmistress of the school turned from where she had been directing students into the castle. "What?!" She exclaimed, her Scottish accent more pronounced than normal.
Dumbledore flinched slightly, knowing that this meant his old friend was quite angry over the whole incident. "I have to go to the Ministry right away," the Headmaster explained, even as he started pacing towards the castle, "can you please look to the students in my absence?"
"I can," Minerva replied, looking slightly mystified, "but why the rush?"
"Because I have to deal with Fudge now and get him to withdraw the dementors from Hogwarts," Dumbledore explained, his exasperation with the whole affair showing, "before somebody decides to take the law into their own hands!"
The Deputy Headmistress paused as she considered Albus's words, before she nodded decisively. "Aye then," Minerva said, scowling, "go hand that wee Sassenach bastard his baws to play with!"
Dumbledore could not hide his wince at Minerva's angry statement, knowing that she was dangerously close to setting the Minister on fire herself. Gesturing to Sirius, he started to jog towards his office.
One of the perks of holding so many positions of power was that Albus Dumbledore had direct floo access from his office to the office of the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Amelia Bones was a bit surprised to receive Albus' call, as the two rarely had much business to discuss that could not be addressed during Wizengamot sessions. She was even more surprised to see the Chief Warlock in the company of the Head of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, considering how the two men had barely been on speaking terms ever since Sirius Black's release from Azkaban.
Her surprise was quickly forgotten after her visitors explained the nature of their business. After that, the primary emotion Amelia felt was one of cold rage.
The trio quickly made their way through the Ministry to the Minister's office, striding through the corridors at a pace that attracted a significant degree of attention. Those that cared to look quickly shifted their attention to other matters and tried to avoid attracting the attention of the Director's party, as the expressions on their faces boded no good for anyone. In short order they had arrived at their destination, ignoring Fudge's secretary entirely as they swept through the door.
"You've done it this time, Fudge," Sirius Black all but snarled as the door to the office slammed shut behind him, "you'll be lucky to get out of this with your skin intact."
"What the devil is the meaning of this?" Fudge demanded, rising from his chair behind his desk, "you can't just barge in here!"
"We can and we just did," Madam Bones grated out as she moved to stand directly in front of Fudge, "this matter couldn't wait."
"Your dementors have done it again," Albus Dumbledore said in a calm tone that belied his expression of barely suppressed rage, "over one hundred of them swarmed the Quidditch ground during today's match."
"It was a bloody near thing," Sirius added as he loomed over the corpulent Minister, "if it hadn't been for some fast work with Patronus charms, we might have seen several students Kissed!"
"Including Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy," Dumbledore put in, noticing how the pair of names had caused Fudge to go pale, "I don't think I need to tell you what the full consequences of having those two boys Kissed by dementors would be. Do I?"
"No," Fudge said weakly as he collapsed into his chair, "but how could this happen? The dementors had strict orders to…"
"Our control over the dementors has never been satisfactory," Amelia interrupted, "you know this. I told you, the handlers told you, and there have been numerous incidents over the years of the dementors going 'rogue' for one reason or another. Frankly, using them to guard Azkaban is the only task that they've ever proven to be reliable for."
Albus sat down in chair immediately opposite Fudge and glared at the Minister across the desk. "We warned you about all of this," the Chief Warlock intoned as Sirius and Amelia took seats of their own, "but you persisted with this foolish plan. And now the true folly of using dementors near school children has been demonstrated in the full view of the public eye. You must order the dementors to be removed from Hogwarts immediately before the situation degenerates any further."
"Surely there's no need for any rash moves," Fudge blustered, "if we just explain that…"
"Merlin's balls, Fudge," Sirius barked, "you won't get a chance to try and offer any excuses! If you don't act to remove the dementors now, every parent who has a child at Hogwarts will rise up and storm the Ministry! They'll come straight here and turn your desk into a gallows!"
"They wouldn't," Fudge protested weakly, "they couldn't!"
Dumbledore paused for a brief moment, before he looked around the Minister's office. Faster than anyone could react, he had produced his wand and was casting at a small wood table that was obviously intended for more congenial meetings around a cup of tea. Faster than the eye could follow, the table was transfigured into a small-scale gallows, complete with a small doll-like figure on the platform with a noose around its neck. The other occupants of the office could not help but notice that the doll's clothing bore a striking resemblance to Fudge's own robes. A gesture from Dumbledore saw the trapdoor open, allowing the doll to drop until the noose arrested its fall just inches from the floor.
"I think you will find, Minister," Albus said gently, "that they can."
Cornelius Fudge gulped audibly and turned his attention to Amelia Bones. Any hope of pleading with her ended as she brandished an all-too familiar piece of parchment.
"I still have those orders you signed, Fudge," Bones said darkly, "if the public come looking for answers, I'll make damn sure they know exactly who to blame for all of this."
"It is time to rescind those orders," Dumbledore added smoothly, "I also think you need to reconsider some of your associations. It is obvious that you have been receiving some remarkably poor advice if you felt that this was a wise course of action."
Fudge looked at the Chief Warlock's expression and knew exactly what the old man meant. The names of several prominent friends he had cultivated since becoming Minister came to mind.
With a trembling hand, the Minister picked up a fresh piece of parchment and a self-inking quill. Writing as quickly as he could, Fudge drafted an order to remove the dementors from Hogwarts and return them to their duties at Azkaban.
"Thank you, Minister," Dumbledore said with a warmth that did not show in his expression, "I believe that with those orders in hand, we need not dwell on this matter any further. For now."
Sirius gave Albus a questioning glance, only to receive a subtle gesture that indicated that they would discuss it later. Amelia Bones reached across the desk to take the new orders from Fudge's hands before rising from her chair.
"Thank you for your time, Minister," Amelia said over her shoulder as she led her two companions out of the Minister's office.
"I need an explanation here," Sirius Black said once the trio had returned to Madam Bones' office, "just why are we leaving Fudge as Minister? Surely we've got enough to have him booted from office!"
Albus Dumbledore wearily sank into a chair in front of Amelia's desk before he looked up to the Director of the DMLE. "Could I trouble you for a drink, Madam Bones?"
Amelia raised an eyebrow before she walked to a small cabinet in the corner of her office. Opening it revealed a collection of bottles and glasses, the quality of which attracted Sirius' attention. After a moment of contemplation, Amelia Bones returned to her desk with a bottle of fire whiskey and three glasses. After setting the glasses down, she poured a generous amount of fire whiskey into each of them.
Albus picked up his glass gratefully, and after a quick silent toast to the other two people in the office, drank his fire whiskey down in one go. Sirius was a little surprised, but elected to have a decent swig himself, drinking half of his fire whiskey down before taking breath. Amelia shook her head slightly at the antics of the two men, apparently content to simply sip at her drink.
"I will not disagree with you regarding Fudge's suitability for the office he holds," Albus eventually said, staring at a corner of the room as Sirius and Amelia took their own seats, "but I am not to see him removed just yet. The reason is simple, Sirius," Dumbledore looked over at his former student and caught his full attention, "right now there is nobody better available."
"You have got to be kidding me," Sirius exploded, "that fat fool is the best we have for the job?!"
Albus sighed and closed his eyes as he began to explain. "You know how politics plays out in the Wizengamot, Sirius. We have three groups who go by various names, depending on who you talk to. Broadly, there are the traditionalists who want to keep our society as it always has been. That group has also been the most invested in the ideas regarding blood purity."
"The Darks," Sirius scoffed.
"That is what they tend to be called, but a commitment to the established order is not necessarily an indication of any practice of Dark Magic," Albus gently chided.
Sirius snorted before taking another drink. "Say that after living my childhood," he said bitterly, "Regulus and I saw hell from our parents. They never bothered to disguise their fascination with the Dark Arts, and they were always considered to be the exemplars of the Darks in the Wizengamot."
Albus noticed the scowl on Amelia's face and decided to move on. "The other main group is the reformist faction that wishes to see our laws updated to reflect the changes in the world we live in. They advocate for protections for muggles, as well as champion the cause of the muggleborns."
"Also known as, the Lights," Sirius added.
"That is often the case," Albus agreed, "and then there are those who care little for these matters, and are primarily concerned with the stability and economic prosperity of our society."
"The Neutrals," Sirius finished for the Headmaster.
Dumbledore nodded. "During the war with the Death Eaters, the Darks were strongly in favour of their cause. Most, however, never formally joined Voldemort's forces, choosing to stay in the Wizengamot and support their cause from there."
"It was a real pain in the neck," Amelia muttered, "we knew they were into it up to their necks, but they managed to stay clean enough that we could never go after them."
"When Voldemort fell, the Death Eaters fell along with him," Albus went on, "frankly we were lucky. If there had been just one competent Death Eater ready, willing and able to step in and take over as the new Dark Lord, Voldemort's death may not have changed anything. As it was, they either panicked or acted rashly, such as the Lestrange's attack on the Longbottoms. Either way, it made it easy to round them up and put an end to the hostilities."
Sirius nodded, reflecting on what he had seen of the war against the Death Eaters during those last months before Halloween in 1981.
"The problem was that the Death Eater's support base in the Wizengamot was unaffected," Dumbledore continued, "they had not committed any crimes and had never taken the Dark Mark. With that group still in the Wizengamot, the fall of the Death Eaters was not the end of it."
Albus leaned forward and placed his empty glass on the desk, shaking his head slightly when Amelia offered a refill. "There was a great deal of clamour from the Lights in the Wizengamot to push through a load of legislative change that they had been advocating for decades, the idea being to capitalise on the change in public sentiment with the Death Eater trials. The problem was that the Darks were still present and a real threat."
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling as he recalled how the situation had played out. "If we had pushed for the kind of large-scale reforms that the Lights wanted, it could easily have pushed those sympathetic to Voldemort over the line. We ran the risk of a new Dark Lord rising, liberating the captured Death Eaters and starting the war anew. At that point the Ministry was practically bankrupt and the economy was in ruins, so a resumption in the fighting could easily have been the last straw."
The Chief Warlock returned his gaze to Sirius. "For all her faults, and she had many of them, Bagnold was astute enough to recognise the danger. She worked with me and the Neutrals to water down the reforms that were being pushed by the Lights. We saw some changes, most of which were long overdue, but the shift was slow enough to avoid provoking the Darks from rebelling outright."
Albus sighed. "We were still playing that balancing game when the details of your incarceration came to light, Sirius. That mess ended Bagnold's career as Minister right when we were making some real progress in easing some of the tension in the Wizengamot. With her gone, I had to find a replacement who could be relied upon to not rock the boat too much."
"I remember that part," Amelia said, "you wanted suggestions."
"Yes," Albus agreed, "I had nobody in mind. Cornelius Fudge was nominated because he was a member of the Neutrals who had never expressed a firm opinion on the divide between the Lights and Darks. While he may not have been the most competent candidate, he was easily the safest from a political standpoint."
Dumbledore closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose before he continued. "What I didn't count on was just how corrupt and foolish Cornelius would prove to be once he was in office. He has been all too readily open to influence from the likes of Lucius Malfoy. He also seems to form policy based on how it will affect the poll results in the Daily Prophet, rather than trying to develop a consistent agenda."
Looking up again, Albus' expression grew hard. "Unfortunately, the overall position hasn't changed. The only other qualified candidates to be Minister are all too heavily wedded to either the Light or Dark agendas. Everybody else is too old, completely uninterested in the job or even more incompetent than Fudge, if you can believe such a thing."
"Damn," Sirius said as the reality of the situation hit home, "are we really that desperate for decent politicians?"
Albus nodded sadly. "I would remove Fudge in a heart-beat if I had a decent replacement lined up. Frustratingly, I don't."
"I may have one," Amelia said slowly as she stared into the distance, "Andrew Fawley. He started in the DMLE as an Auror, but moved over to the Prosecutions office after two years. He has basically been running the office by himself recently, thanks to half of it being tied up in the Lockhart Trial."
Albus Dumbledore stared at Amelia intensely. "How does he stand, politically?"
"He doesn't," Amelia replied, "which is why he might be a good fit for the job. He leans slightly to the reformist side of things, but he is most definitely in the Neutral camp most of the time."
"And he's competent?" Sirius asked.
"Absolutely," Madam Bones said with certainty, "he's been extremely effective in handling the Prosecutions office. The only problem is that he's a bit inexperienced by the standards of some of the older stalwarts of the Wizengamot."
"That can be handled," Albus mused, strategies running through his mind, "I can swing the Lights behind him easily enough, particularly given his role in the DMLE."
"The Neutrals shouldn't be too hard either," Sirius added easily, "Ogden has been looking for support to try and lobby the Germans to reduce their tariffs on alcohol imports. If I help him out there, it should be a piece of cake to get him to support Fawley."
"You think you can help there?" Amelia asked, knowing that this had been a sore point for the Ogden family for some time.
Sirius smiled broadly. "You may not have noticed, but I've been working with Remus to strengthen the Black Family finances. Part of that has been shoring up the investment portfolio, and guess what? Turns out the Black Family has long had a fair chunk of change tied up in German companies. All I need do is have a private conversation with the German Minister, and a deal will be a lot easier to manage."
Dumbledore nodded slightly as he considered the details. "Fine," he said firmly, "it'll take us some time to get all of this in motion. The Ministry will be preoccupied with the Quidditch World Cup for most of the coming year, so I feel we should aim to have Mr Fawley in a position to replace Fudge by the end of next year. Or the beginning of the following, at the latest."
Sirius and Amelia nodded as the three all stood. "You know, a decent Minister will be a refreshing change," Madam Bones said as she escorted her guests to the floo, "I wonder what it will be like?"
Author's Notes: Many thanks to Doghead Thirteen and Tommy King at the Caer Azkaban group for the help they gave me in crafting Minerva McGonagall's epithet. I wanted it to be something that sounded genuinely Scottish, so their input was invaluable. For those that don't know, baws = balls = testicles.