Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling. Yes, there are direct quotes here, but they are used sparingly (approximately 5% of the source material) and for an actual narrative purpose, not for heckling or commentating like in all the other stories of this type.

A/N: I thought a lot about whether to even write this story, much less publish it. It's a big project, and not one that's wildly conducive to success. However, my initial enquiries were surprisingly encouraging, so I'm giving it a try. I don't know yet if I'll get through all seven books, but I plan to at least get through Philosopher's Stone.

Harry Potter characters reading the Harry Potter books is a trope that in my experience is universally handled terribly. Usually, the books are quoted verbatim, somebody interrupts literally every sentence just for the sake of commenting, and there's no actual plot. Even the stories that break this pattern do so halfheartedly, and they still wind up being twice as long as the books themselves and terminally boring.

But despite this, I believe that any trope can be made to work in the right hands, so I wanted to try it and actually take it seriously. This is the story of how the characters would actually react to the Harry Potter books, told at an actually readable pace. To do anything less is not doing the story justice.

To be clear, I contend that this is not an MST story. An MST story is defined as "comments inserted in between the flow of a copied story." This is not the case here because I am using quotes sparingly, not interleaving them with commentary, and there is an actual plot, which is also not about commentary, but about various characters scheming to use the information they learn to their own ends.

Chapter 1: Umbridge

The Boy Who Lived

Dolores Umbridge paced back and forth through the upper floors of Hogwarts, trying to think of some way to finish her job: shutting up Dumbledore and that brat, Potter, for good. Both of them were slippery targets, but she knew—she knew—that they had to be up to something. Why else would they keep spewing their ridiculous lies if they weren't?

But she could never prove anything. A smear campaign in the media, strict restrictions, a half dozen educational decrees and even one failed assassination attempt and subsequent show trial had all failed to stop Potter. Somehow, he had come out with an interview in that awful rag, The Quibbler, with Rita Skeeter, no less, right under her very nose. Merlin, she'd thought Skeeter was a Ministry woman. Potter must have threatened her to get that.

And so, she was wandering about on the seventh floor on a Saturday, trying to find dirt on Potter's illicit activities in the school. She knew something was going on. She just hadn't been able to pin it down. If only I could find out the truth about Potter, she thought as she passed by that eyesore of a tapestry of the dancing trolls. What little evidence she had said that whatever Potter was up to was centred on this location, but she couldn't see anything off about the place.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a crash coming from behind her. She spun around and darted past the tapestry again. Aha! I've got you now, Potter. All I need is to get the real truth out of you, and then you'll get it!

But the disturbance wasn't Potter. It was Peeves. That dratted poltergeist ought to have been exorcised centuries ago. Dolores may not have been the best with a wand, but she successfully banished him to an unused wing where he couldn't cause much trouble and continued on her patrol. Now, where was I, she thought. Right, I need proof of Potter's misdeeds, and preferably Dumbledore's, too. I just need the real story. Another strange sound stopped her as she passed the tapestry a third time. She looked, and on the opposite wall, there was a door. She was quite certain there hadn't been a door there before. And that door couldn't possibly go anywhere. It was an outer wall of the castle! That was suspicious. She went over to the mysterious door and (cautiously, in case it led to a sheer drop or something) opened it.

At first, the little room behind the door looked disappointing. It was a small, private reading room, the kind that Granger girl might secretly maintain somewhere. It contained a small fire grate, a wing chair, and a side table with a lamp on it. Also on the side table was a stack of seven colourful-looking books. Dolores picked up the first one and read the title: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Potter again? Where did these books come from? She wondered. There had been books written about the alleged Boy-Who-Lived, but these weren't among them. The Potter on the cover was dressed as a student, and the books she knew about had stopped coming out after he started school. And what's more, she remembered hearing some interesting rumours about the Philosopher's Stone during Potter's first year. Could this be the true story about Potter she was looking for? Could the castle itself have sensed her need and provided for her? It seemed extraordinary, but perhaps Hogwarts was more on her side than she thought.

It seemed worth taking a look, at least. She sat down in the wing chair and began to read the first chapter.

Most of the chapter wasn't all that interesting. Potter had some bloody annoying muggle relatives. No surprise there. Merlin, they sounded even worse than her mother and brother. Maybe that's why he was so cranky all the time. Ha!

Ah, this was better. What was Dumbledore doing? Besides making a fool of himself? Muggle sweets, of all the things. But still, none of it seemed useful, until she got to the end of the chapter, and a dawning look of comprehension crept over her face.

"He did what?" she gasped. Her lips curled into a sneer. "Oh, this is good. This is very good. I'd better Floo-call Cornelius. If the rest of this book is anything like the first chapter, Dumbledore is going down. Even Potter will be against him when I'm through with him…And I know the perfect way to do it, too."

Monday morning began perfectly normally at Hogwarts, but little by little, the students and teachers got a creeping sensation that something very big was about to happen—Harry Potter, especially. Perhaps it was that very genuine evil grin Umbridge kept giving him. She looked entirely too cheerful this morning and he had a feeling the other shoe was about to drop.

It wasn't until the end of breakfast that Umbridge made her move. "Hem hem, may I have your attention, please?" she said, standing up. "I have an important announcement to make. Today, all morning classes have been cancelled."

No one was foolish enough to cheer. Quite a few people gasped, especially among the teachers. If she was cancelling classes, Umbridge had either gone insane or was planning something much more devious than usual.

"Instead, all students and teachers will remain in the Great Hall for the morning for a public book reading."

She was insane. Were her classes not enough, and now she wanted to read that awful Defence book to the whole school at once? Even Dumbledore looked perplexed. "That's an extremely unusual move, Dolores," he said. "May I ask what brought it on?"

"Certainly, Headmaster. You see, I have had numerous problems this school year with certain individuals spreading dangerous and panic-inducing lies about the supposed return of a certain dark wizard. Despite repeated attempts at discipline, these lies persist, most egregiously in one Harry Potter's slanderous interview with a notorious gossip magazine. Notwithstanding the best efforts of the Ministry, these lies have gained traction in some circles, and the Minister and I have agreed that we are left with no choice but to publicly rebut them."

Several of the teachers (and students) scoffed. Was she going to give a three-hour speech on the subject? From where he sat, Harry wouldn't put it past her—but wait, didn't she say it was a book reading?

"And how do you intend to do that?" Dumbledore asked politely. He still sounded more bemused than anything else.

"I'm glad you asked, Headmaster. I recently came into possession of a biography of Harry Potter's first year at Hogwarts, which I understand to be true and containing details not known to the general public." And that was true, to the best her knowledge. Dolores Umbridge was no fool. She had made it through about half the book on Saturday and spent most of yesterday making enquiries at the Ministry and asking carefully-worded questions of several teachers, especially Hagrid. Every detail she was able to fact-check came back true, including some that were definitely not known to the public, if they were even known to anyone besides the people mentioned in the book itself. J. K. Rowling appeared to be a pseudonym, and she had no idea who he or she was, but the rest seemed trustworthy.

Dumbledore was getting more confused, not less. In the unlikely event that book was the real story of Harry's first year, there was no way Dolores would make it public…unless she hadn't read the whole thing, perhaps? But if it was just another slanderous manifesto, why go to this much trouble? No, there had to be something more to it.

Harry just groaned at her words. It was bad enough that people were making up lies about him all the time, but now he was going to have to sit through a whole fake biography? This was just too much.

"I'm surprised you would allow a book reading, Professor Umbridge," Professor McGonagall said shrewdly, taking a more pragmatic approach. "I was under the impression that teachers were banned from giving the students information not related to their subjects."

"That restriction has been suspended for the sake of this activity, Professor McGonagall," Umbridge replied.

McGonagall gasped in a show of indignation: "Surely you don't mean to go against Educational Decree Number…damn," she muttered under her breath. "Er, Twenty-Six?"

Umbridge smiled her wicked smile. "I think you will find that the rule in question was merely 'in accordance with' E.D. Twenty-Six, Professor. The decree itself gives me the power to enact or suspend such rules as I see fit for the efficient operation of the school."

"And you think that cancelling the morning's classes will be conducive to the efficient operation of the school?" McGonagall said dryly.

"Oh, I think the results of this activity will be very beneficial to Hogwarts as a whole." That didn't sound good, and students and teachers alike knew it, especially with the way Umbridge had been trying to undermine Dumbledore all year. "Now, before we begin, I would like to invite in a few guests to sit in on the reading. Mr. Filch?"

Filch opened the doors of the Great Hall, and in walked Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, along with Percy Weasley two Aurors: Kingsley Shacklebolt, and a smaller, pale man Harry and his friends didn't know. Everyone stared at the newcomers as they took seats off to the right of the High Table.

"Good morning, Minister," Umbridge said brightly.

"Good morning, Dolores," Fudge replied. He looked even smugger than usual. "All set for this morning's entertainment? It should be good, if what you've told me is true."

"I'm sure it will be, Minister." Umbridge produced a colourful hard-backed book and addressed the school: "The title of the book is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone."

Dumbledore's smile slipped a little. The title didn't prove anything; much of the Philosopher's Stone incident was public record, but it was a red flag that someone would use it in a book about Harry. If it was as accurate as she claimed, there could be trouble.

"Now, I think we will rotate readers so that no one has to strain his or her voice," Umbridge said. Harry scoffed as he watched at the thought that it was mostly so she wouldn't have to strain her voice. "Teachers in order of seniority, I think? That seems fair. I will be happy to start the reading, of course," she added before Dumbledore could ask to get his hands on the book.

"Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived…" she read. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much…"

And from that first line, Dumbledore started to sweat. Something was very wrong here. He wasn't afraid for his own career—yet—but he was worried that sensitive information might be released through this book. He had no idea what it was or where it came from, but as Umbridge continued reading about Vernon Dursley's unusual day—clearly referring to the first of November, 1981—he became increasing convinced that this book really was accurate (and that someone had tricked the High Inquisitor into reading it to the school). And yet, with the Minister here, he didn't have the power to stop her.

That immediately raised the question of who wrote the book. From the intimate details it gave about the Dursleys' home life, it had to be Harry Potter himself or someone very close to him. Hermione Granger seemed the most likely suspect, although it could have been Sirius Black or Remus Lupin, both of whom had a lot of time on their hands, or perhaps one of the Weasleys, or Minerva as an outside chance. Any of them might know things they ought not to make public.

Meanwhile, down at the Gryffindor Table, Harry Potter was coming to the same unsettling conclusion. Hermione noticed his discomfort at once. She glanced up at the High Table once and whispered to him, "Harry, what's wrong?"

Harry eyed Umbridge too, but she didn't seem to notice the whispering as she read on: "It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something peculiar—a cat reading a map…"

"Guys, I think this book might actually be accurate," Harry whispered to his friends.

"What?" they gasped quietly.

"That sounds just like the Dursleys," he said.

"Do you remember what she's reading about?" Hermione asked.

"No, it sounds like it's the day I got left there, but it sounds just like them. I don't think any other wizards know them well enough to write them that well."

"Then where did the book come from?" asked Ron.

"I don't know. Neither of you wrote it, did you?"


"Of course not."

"Fred? George? Ginny?"

"As fun as that would be—"

"—it wasn't us," the Twins whispered.

"Me neither," added Ginny.

"Anyone else in your family?"

"Doubt it," Ron said. "It doesn't sound like any of them."

"It had to have come from somewhere, though," Hermione insisted. "Who else would know enough to write that?"

Harry stared at the High Table and thought for a minute.

"'Don't be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You Know Who has gone at last! Even muggles like yourself should be celebrating, this happy, happy day!'"


All eyes turned to the end of the High Table. Snape had interrupted Umbridge's reading, as only Snape had the nerve to do. "Such flagrant disregard for the Statute of Secrecy," he said. "Does the book say who the dunderhead was?"

"Hm…no, I'm afraid not," said Umbridge. "A shame. That is quite flagrant, I agree. But to continue: And the old man hugged Mr. Dursley around the middle and walked off…"

"Ha. Well, that can't be accurate," Harry said.

"Why not?" whispered Ron.

"Because no one has arms that long."

Harry's friends snickered quietly. Umbridge was still so preoccupied with the reading that she still didn't notice.

Harry listened with more interest, though, when the cat was mentioned again, with its unusual markings around the eyes. That sounded an awful lot like Professor McGonagall, as several of his classmates whispered to each other, but then, it hit him: McGonagall had been there when he'd been left at the Dursleys. He looked up at the High Table and saw her sitting there with the same baffled expression that Dumbledore and many of the other teachers now wore. They must all be as surprised as he was.

Mrs. Dursley had a nice, normal day of spying on her neighbours and teaching Dudley a new word ("Shan't!"), but the news people had not had such a normal day, and both Dursleys noticed.

"'Viewers as far apart as Kent, Yorkshire, and Dundee have been phoning in to tell me that instead of the rain I promised yesterday, they've had a downpour of shooting stars!' Goodness, yes, I remember that day, Minister, don't you?" Umbridge commented. "They had us running ragged in the Improper Use of Magic Office. It was all Bagnold's fault, of course, asserting our 'inalienable right to party.' Hmph! It wasn't such a party for the cleanup crew."

"I remember, Dolores," Fudge replied from the side of the hall. "It was nearly as bad in Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, even before what Sirius Black did. Took us weeks to mop up everything. Let that be a lesson to everyone to be more careful," he said more loudly. "Please continue, Dolores."

The pressure of the news report was apparently too much for Mr. Dursley because he gave in and asked his wife about her sister—the sister she preferred to pretend didn't exist. She confirmed that her nephew's name was, indeed, Harry Potter, at which point even the dullest students in the Great Hall made the connection: everyone knew Harry lived with muggle relatives, and these must be them. Harry's friends already knew about the Dursleys, but it was a shock to the rest of the school how unpleasant they were. The whispers about them grew so loud that Umbridge finally took notice.

"Quiet, please, everyone," she said. "We're just coming to the good part: A man appeared on the corner the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he'd just popped out of the ground."

From the description of his attire, no one was surprised the man was Professor Dumbledore meeting Professor McGonagall at the Dursleys' house. However, Hermione was fascinated by the description of his Put-Outer and its ability to turn off the street lamps, and she actually began taking notes right there at the table. "It must be more stable or reliable that a regular spell in some way," she whispered. "I wonder how it actually pulls the light out of electrical fixtures like that…"

The real Dumbledore, however, was lost in thought. This ought to have narrowed it down further. Not many people knew about his Deluminator, and he was confident that list did not include Harry or any of his friends. It was a clever little gadget, but he rarely had use of it except when he visited muggle areas. He was also certain that Minerva had been the only other witness to the events described before Hagrid arrived. He gave his Deputy another questioning look, and she frantically shook her head once more. This meant the author would have to be someone very close to both Harry and Minerva to pull this off—an Order member. Only Arthur, Molly, Sirius, or Remus could possibly fit that bill. Or could there have been an eavesdropper? Possibly, but who? The story was too accurate to be Rita Skeeter's work, and with anyone else, the question was, "Why?"

"'I suppose he really has gone, Dumbledore?'"

"'It certainly seems so,' said Dumbledore. There, you see, Minister, even Dumbledore himself believed He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was gone for good from the first," Umbridge said triumphantly.

"So he did," Fudge said. "Now, how do you explain that, Dumbledore?"

"At the time, like everyone else, I was hopeful that Voldemort was, indeed, gone for good, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied calmly. "However, I soon saw signs that he was not, in fact, as dead as he seemed. If you recall, I was not shy about saying so these past fourteen years, and for much of that time, you yourself trusted my judgement."

"And it took a blatant power play to open my eyes, but everyone makes mistakes from time to time. You do have more, don't you, Dolores?"

"Much more, Minister," she said with a grin. "We've only just begun. 'We have much to be thankful for—'" She giggled slightly. "'Would you care for a sherbet lemon?'"

Harry groaned. Everyone knew Dumbledore was eccentric, but this conversation was making him look totally off his rocker.

But oddly, Hermione snickered. "Alright, new theory: Dumbledore is the Doctor."

"What?" Harry said.

"Doctor who?" Ron said.

"Exactly! Would you like a jelly baby?" she said before nearly collapsing in stifled giggles.

"What's wrong with her?" Ron wondered.

"It's a muggle TV show," Harry whispered. "Hermione, this is serious!"

"Sorry. Sorry. I couldn't help it."

Umbridge, however, had hit the first snag in her master plan. In her excitement over the weekend, she had passed over the fact that the book had written out He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's name in print. She was stuck over whether to read it as such and frantically trying to remember whether it was mentioned frequently. Even she had to admit that "You-Know-Who" got unwieldy pretty quickly. She could still switch it in in most cases, but in this particular context, it would sound ridiculous.

"'My dear Professor, surely a sensible person like yourself can call him by his name? All this "You-Know-Who" nonsense—for eleven years, I have been trying to persuade people to call him by his proper name: V…V…'" she tried to say. "V…well, he said the name—"

"Surely, Dolores," Dumbledore interrupted, "if you truly believe that he is gone forever, then there is no danger in saying his name, especially here, behind the wards of Hogwarts." Perhaps there was a silver lining to this after all, he thought.

"Oh, fine, then. 'Voldemort!'" she said. Dumbledore was making a power play, and she couldn't let him win. Many students gasped. Even Cornelius looked pale. Dumbledore looked smug, and she scowled. She'd wipe that smile off his face soon enough. But the conversation in the book soon turned from Voldemort to the subject of the Potters. It was when Umbridge read the line, "'Lily and James…I can't believe it…I didn't want to believe it…Oh, Albus…'" that Professor McGonagall decided to act.

"Professor Umbridge! That is an extremely personal conversation," she interrupted. "I don't think it's appropriate to read it in front of the students."

Umbridge turned to her: "On the contrary, Professor McGonagall, I believe this conversation is critical to understanding the current situation. To continue: "Dumbledore reached out and patted her shoulder…" Dumbledore then explained that Voldemort was destroyed when he tried to kill Harry but he couldn't explain how: "'We can only guess,' said Dumbledore. 'We may never know.'"

"Wait a minute, he didn't know?" Harry said.

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.

"Dumbledore told me exactly what happened to Voldemort at the end of my first year. My mother's protection stopped him. But if he didn't know then, I don't see how he could have figured it out. I was the only one there who survived, and I didn't remember anything till third year. How could he have got any more information in between?"

Hermione's eyes narrowed, and she regarded Dumbledore carefully. "That does sound odd," she said. "I…I don't think I understand the situation enough to make a guess. You'll have to ask him afterwards…if he doesn't get sacked first." She thought for another minute and pulled out another sheet of parchment. "There are a lot of questions that need answering," she said, and she started writing them down:

1. Who wrote the book?

2. How did they find out everything?

3. How did Umbridge get it?

4. Why did Dumbledore say he didn't know how Harry survived Voldemort's attack?

"Number five," Harry said, "How did everyone know what happened when I was the only living witness?"

"Magical forensics, maybe?" Hermione said.

"But they never found Voldemort's body. How were they sure he was even dead?"

"The Dark Marks, I think," George jumped in, to their surprise.

"What?" they asked in unison.

"Snape was a spy for Dumbledore, right? I remember Dad talking about how the Dark Marks on the Death Eaters turned dark again when You-Know-Who returned."

"Oh, so when he 'died', they must have faded," Hermione said. "You see, Harry? They probably could have guess most of that."

"I guess."

"'A letter?' repeated Professor McGonagall faintly, sitting back down on the wall. 'Really, Dumbledore, you think you can explain all this in a letter?' That's a very good point, Professor McGonagall," Umbridge said. "You yourself speak with parents of muggle-born students extensively to ensure that they fully understand the magical world and their place in it, do you not?"

She paused long enough for McGonagall to realised that the question was not rhetorical, and Dolores wanted her to put her answer on record. "That is true, although the situation was different in this case. Petunia already knew—"

"Placing Harry Potter with muggle relatives is questionable enough, Headmaster," Umbridge cut her off. "Leaving a letter rather than explaining what had happened? Not offering condolences for the death of her beloved sister? That seems unusually callous for you."

At that point, Dumbledore knew what she was up to. He hadn't thought much of his actions in leaving the infant Harry with his relatives. His intent had been to leave Petunia no choice in taking him in and thus sealing the Protection of Blood Charm, but he knew it would look bad out of context, and with Minerva acquiescing to his plan, it didn't reflect well on her well either. She wouldn't be particularly safe, nor would Hagrid, and that would be a disaster. If Dolores played her proverbial cards right, Severus could be the only Order member left in the castle, and then Harry would have no one he trusted to speak to if anything happened. That could not be allowed to happen with Voldemort trying to lure him to the Department of Mysteries.

There was only one chance. He'd have to gamble with whatever would be said in the rest of the book to make sure she got to the part that (presumably) would prove that Voldemort was still alive. Under the table, he quickly scribbled out a note: Make sure she reads all the way to the end of the book. He then enchanted it to fly under the table to Severus. He saw the Potions Master look down at his lap for a moment and look back up with a blank expression. He inclined his head slightly. Message received.

"'I would trust Hagrid with my life,' said Dumbledore.

"'I'm not saying his heart isn't in the right place,' said Professor McGonagall grudgingly, 'but you can't pretend he's not careless.' Hmm, it's a pity you we're more assertive, Professor. It sounds as if you have a good deal more sense than our esteemed Headmaster. You could have done very well in his place if you'd taken a different direction."

Hagrid had turned red and was watching McGonagall with a betrayed look. McGonagall herself was red with embarrassment, but Umbridge didn't give her a chance to respond—obviously because it wouldn't benefit her cause.

"—and a huge motorbike fell out of the air and landed on the road in front of them. Tsk tsk. That definitely falls under the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects. Do make a note of that, Mr. Weasley."

As Percy took notes, she continued on, describing how Hagrid produced baby Harry and explained how he had found him in the ruins of Godric Hollow and brought him to Little Whinging. Umbridge's smile became wider and wider and Dumbledore and especially McGonagall looked more and more mortified as the audience began to understand just what they had done.

"'Good luck, Harry,' he murmured. He turned on his heel and with a swish of his cloak he was gone."

She paused to wait for the reaction, which she was sure would be significant. Better yet, from her perspective, the first person to speak up was Professor Flitwick, probably the most broadly-respected teacher at the school. "Just a moment," he said. "Albus, do you mean to tell me that you left a one-year-old out on the doorstep alone overnight in late autumn?"

The entire Hall was listening to what Dumbledore had to say for himself. He thought fast. Maybe he could still save this. "I admit that my actions were unorthodox, Filius," he said. "However, I ensured that the infant Mr. Potter was in no danger that night. I placed charms on him to ensure he would stay warm and protected until morning, and I checked back discreetly in the morning to ensure his aunt had, indeed taken him in." That last bit was only half-true. He'd merely checked to ensure the Blood Protection had sealed properly from his office. "I knew that his aunt wanted as little to do with the magical world as possible, so I elected not to introduce myself directly."

"Hem hem," Dolores said. "That is fascinating, Headmaster, but the fact remains that your actions were questionable far beyond this bout of poor judgement that night. Mr. Potter should have had a legal process to assign guardianship—a process you bypassed completely. You likely ignored the wishes of his late parents, as well. After all, what self-respecting parents would want their child raised by muggles? There are serious concerns about endangering the welfare of a child…and perhaps even…kidnapping?"

"AHA!" Fudge shouted, leaping from his seat. "She's right! And we've got it straight from your own mouth, Dumbledore! With no magical next of kin, Potter should have been made a ward of the Ministry and put up for adoption. Even if the muggles qualified, there should have been a Wizengamot hearing to confirm it…And you knew it as Chief Warlock!" Many students and teachers gasped.

That was a surprisingly strong argument, coming from Fudge. It wasn't true, of course, but you had to read the fine print to see it. Albus had still had his wartime powers at the time, which legally allowed him to bypass the regular process for the sake of Harry's safety. But it was a legal grey area because there really should have been a custody hearing after his wartime powers ended. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to explain that.

"Highly irregular," Percy agreed. "In violation of multiple laws and procedures. Definitely probably cause for a kidnapping case, sir."

"That's it! Dawlish, Shaklebolt, arrest him!" the Minister roared triumphantly. Wands were drawn around the Hall.

"No!" McGonagall yelled over shouts of indignation from her students. "Minister, this is outrageous!"

"We've got his confession, Professor," Fudge insisted. "It'll be better if you stay out of our way. Albus Dumbledore, you are hereby relieved of your position and placed under arrest. I must have to ask you to surrender your wand and accompany the Aurors quietly."

The Aurors moved against Dumbledore, and that was where it came apart. A few members of the D.A. stood up and drew their wands with a shout. This set off a chain reaction with some of the older Slytherins drawing their wands, then the teachers, then more Gryffindors. Harry hadn't anticipated this reaction, and he was suddenly very worried about what would happen. Tactically, a mass duel in the Great Hall was a very bad situation—


Everyone stopped and looked up to the High Table to see Dumbledore standing up with his hands raised. He looked angry—angry enough even to stop Fudge and the Aurors.

"I will not see my school turned into a battlefield," he said, his eyes seeming to fall on everyone in the Hall in the same instant. Not even Fudge dared to interrupt him. "The loyalty of many of you to me is admirable, but this is not the way. Violence will only lead to more violence…Unfortunately, it appears that I have overstayed my welcome. This is a highly unusual situation, but it is unavoidable. Rest assured, though, my loyalty will always be to Hogwarts, and I am confident that I will be able to return in time. Until then, I will leave you in Professor McGonagall's capable hands. I expect you to respect her as you would me."

"Yes, well, thank you for dealing with that problem, Dumbledore," Fudge said awkwardly. "Now, if you'll come with the Aurors—"

"Ah, I think we have a slight misunderstanding, Cornelius," Dumbledore said, raising one finger. "I said I would go. I never said I would go with the Aurors." He winked, and now, Harry was sure he was winking at him: "Remember, help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it."

Suddenly, there was a flash of huge red and gold wings over Dumbledore's head accompanied by the cry of a large bird, and the great wizard vanished in a pillar of fire. A wind blew the two Aurors back along with everyone else who was standing near him as he disappeared from sight. Many of the students cheered, while a majority just stared open-mouthed in shock.

"Phoenix travel!" Fudge exclaimed, and he muttered to himself, "Slippery old goat."

"Well, you may not like him, Minister, but you've got to admit, Dumbledore's got style," Kingsley said.

Plenty of Dumbledore's fan grinned, but Fudge scowled: "Style and an arrogant streak a mile wide. Dawlish, copy Weasley's notes and put out the word to search for him. We'll get him yet!"

"Yes, sir," Dawlish said eagerly. He soon left, leaving Kingsley to watch over Fudge and Percy, who was continuing to take notes on the situation.

"How dare you!" McGonagall cried. "Driving the Headmaster from the school—"

"I merely brought his past crimes to light, Professor McGonagall," Umbridge spoke over her loudly enough that she must have used a Sonorous Charm. "You should be concerned for yourself, going along with this plan of Dumbledore's. Very suspicious. And we have so much more to cover."

"You got what you wanted, Dolores!" McGonagall said with a sound of fighting back tears. "Dumbledore's gone. Just leave it be."

"Oh, no, no, no, Professor," Umbridge said with her poison smile. "We've barely scratched the surface. Kidnapping is a serious charge by itself, but to see the full depths of the harm Albus Dumbledore has caused, we will need to read the next chapter. And that's not all. There is serious mismanagement of Hogwarts that this book will reveal, which must be dealt with swiftly. And moreover, Mr. Potter has continued to spout his lies despite repeated correction, and I think it's only appropriate to show his fellow students just how unbalanced his unfortunate upbringing has made him. They should be fully informed of the inaccuracy of his tales, don't you think, Minister? I've already cleared the entire morning."

"Oh, that sounds very interesting, Dolores," Fudge said. "This activity has been so informative already; I'd very much like to hear more."

"And there you go," she agreed. "Perhaps you would you like to do the honours, Professor McGonagall, since you are the next most senior teacher? I have a copy of the book just for you." In other words, don't bother trying to burn it or anything.

"You cannot be serious, Dolores," McGonagall snapped tearfully. "After what you've just done?"

"It would be in your interest to cooperate, Professor McGonagall," Umbridge said in a far more menacing tone than usual. "I can always have the Aurors read it if you don't want to."

And she was cornered. He tears turning to anger, she said, "Oh, give me that," and swiped the book from her hands like a cat. Finding the place on the page, she read the final paragraph, ending with the toast that had been on everyone's lips that night: "'To Harry Potter—the boy who lived!'"