Croaker had brought Bones into the Shadow Demesne to talk, taking her into his office. "So, am I to assume that we have Potter, Granger and Lovegood to thank for last night?" Bones asked as she sat down.

"Of course."

"And the fact that Umbridge swore profusely a couple of times when I was there for no readily apparent reason?" Bones asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Granger has the Shadow Gift of Mind. While she could have tinkered with Umbridge's mind more, she wanted to give my offer a chance first. As it is, Umbridge and Fudge have taken the bait. They're marshalling their attention on Dumbledore, while we can start bringing our attention to bear on Voldemort."

"So Potter did witness his resurrection?" Bones' tone was filled with a resigned dread. She knew what the answer was going to be, she just hoped it wasn't going to be the case.

Unfortunately, Croaker had to shatter her illusions. "Yes. They have also confirmed, more or less, that Voldemort has used a type of soul container called a Horcrux, and multiple ones at that. They have already destroyed a number of them, including one in Potter's infamous scar."

Bones winced. "Merlin, a soul container in Harry Potter's scar. Imagine how quickly the people would have turned on him had they known that. It was bad enough last year when his name came out of the Goblet of Fire, not to mention Rita Skeeter's yellow journalism. And Susan told me he learned he was a Parselmouth during that Chamber of Secrets fiasco, and how much of Hogwarts turned on him because of that."

"It's not all bad. I managed to persuade them to give me the next Horcrux they find, in order to use a ritual I found. If we're lucky, the ritual will find the remaining ones, as well as Voldemort himself. Potter also came to destroy the prophecy around him."

"So, they accepted your offer?"

"Well, it was far from an onerous one, and they have been supporting you covertly through financing. Working as Unspeakables, and unofficially for us, helps matters. Especially as we are ridding the world of Voldemort. And removing Fudge and Dumbledore. Incidentally, who are you considering bringing in as a candidate for Minister?"

"I know you are voting for me, which, while flattering, I think I would do more good in the DMLE than as Minister. Plus, if it gets out that I aided and abetted a trio of Shadow-Walkers in their crimes, I'd be thrown in Azkaban, or else given the Kiss along with those three, and you as well. Scrimgeour's a no-go, he would make a better wartime Minister, but not for peacetime, which it will be when Voldemort is put down. I would personally put down either Augusta Longbottom or Cyrus Greengrass."

Croaker considered the choices. Longbottom was a right battle axe at times, but she was also a shrewd politician and a force to be reckoned with. Greengrass was more circumspect, but despite being a Slytherin, he was noted for eschewing the Blood Purity doctrine. Oh, he wasn't particularly fond of Muggleborns, but he didn't hate or disdain them either. "What about Arthur Weasley?" he asked, more to throw the name out and see Bones' opinion.

"He's more controversial because of his pro-Muggle stance, or rather, because he angered a lot of families doing so. Standing up for Muggles and Muggleborns is the right thing to do, but Arthur is seen as a joke in much of the Ministry, and given his so-called knowledge of Muggle items, it's little wonder. Perversely, I think I would make a better head of his department than he would. Misuse of Muggle Artifacts…he's good at what he does, in ensuring the safety of others from enchanted items, but he doesn't do enough research from the Muggle side of things. Arthur is a good man where he is, and he certainly should be paid more than the pittance he gets for good work, but I don't think he'd make a good Minister."


"You mean from the Goblin Liaison Office? Hmm, well, being a Muggleborn might cause some problems, but he's certainly good at negotiating with obstreperous stubborn types like the Goblins. And he's a cannier politician than he looks. But he's a bit too young for the responsibility of being a Minister. I was also thinking of Amber Baum. You know, Crouch's replacement. The Muggleborn(1)."

"She's another possibility," Croaker mused. "So, Longbottom, Greengrass, Cresswell, Baum, or yourself. At the very least, we need these people on the same page, and even if he wouldn't make a good Minister, Arthur would still be a good ally."

"And with the Death Eaters less able to throw money around to influence votes…" Bones murmured.

"Exactly. Those three intend to take on Gringotts, and particularly relieve the Death Eaters of their funds. Even the various spells and curses the Goblins are so proud of does nothing in the Shadow-Demesne, and they're smart enough to remove any enchantments on the items. I'm sure the Goblins will suspect a Shadow-Walker is involved: they have pretty long memories where thieves are concerned. But they can't prove it, and for all their amorality and neutrality, I'm sure they would love to see some of the Purebloods get taken down a peg or two, even as they hate the thieves who thumbed their nose at them."

"Potter and the others don't use Gringotts to invest their money, do they?" Bones asked.

"They're not stupid. They keep it in storage in their trunks, as well as those donations to both your department and St Mungo's. I think they're looking to invest it elsewhere. You know how the Goblins feel about thieves in general. Which is a bit hypocritical, given that there've been more than a few black marketeers and mob bosses amongst them. Like Gnarlack. Old Newt once told me of what happened during that brouhaha involving that Obscurius and Grindlewald."

"That aside, do you think Umbridge and Fudge will focus less on Potter and more on Dumbledore?"

"As much as Umbridge hates me, and Potter, she hates Dumbledore most of all, and I simply made him a more enticing target. And as she is one of those who holds the ear of the Minister, along with Malfoy…"

"There's a problem," Bones pointed out. "Dumbledore is the only person Voldemort feared, even if he would never admit it. If we can't deal with Voldemort quickly enough, and Dumbledore loses his power…"

"The ritual was just my idea. Harry and the others were going to deal with the Horcruxes systematically anyway, seek them out and destroy them. The ritual should just make things easier."

"Better that this gets done sooner rather than later," Bones said, her lips pressed together pensively. "I want my niece, not to mention so many other children, to grow up in a world where, at the very least, they don't have to fear the rise of someone like Voldemort anymore."

"Sadly, Dark Lords and other human dictators rise as inevitably as entropy increasing," Croaker remarked. "But Voldemort is certainly one of the most tenacious. Another concern is Dumbledore. The old man got showered with so many plaudits and titles, he's now believes his own myth. Whoever had the bright idea of giving him the offices of Supreme Mugwump of the ICW and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamout ought to be shoved through the Veil if they're not dead already. He could handle maybe two offices at most if I was being generous, and as Chief Warlock, there's considerable potential for conflict of interest in both his roles at Hogwarts and the ICW. Fudge intending to strip him of the Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump positions was probably one of his brightest ideas, though I sense Malfoy's hand in this."

"I agree, but we can't target Malfoy or his ilk," Bones said. "If I tried, Fudge would have a hissy fit, followed by my job. That's part of the reason why I'm willing to allow those three to do their thing. I don't like having to make a choice between two different sets of criminals, but between those trying to clean up society as they commit crimes, and those who just want to take us over…I just hope they're careful when they hit Gringotts. The Goblins are going to be up in arms when they discover what happened."

Croaker nodded. "They will. For all their youth, they are not fools, even if two of them are Gryffindors."

"AKA the House that rushes in where angels fear to tread," Bones remarked with a smirk. "Let's hope you are right, Saul, for all our sakes…"

Albus Dumbledore was troubled. Not by pangs of conscience, though he had considerable cause to be, should he actually bother listening to said conscience. No, it was recent events that had given him cause to be troubled.

The first was a series of events that, while seemingly unconnected, had befallen a number of people. Severus had forgotten a volatile potion, and his house was now a burnt-out shell, with the obstreperous Potions Master now needing to lodge at Hogwarts (Sirius refusing to entertain the possibility of Severus lodging at 12 Grimmauld Place) until he found another place to live. In addition, Dolores Umbridge and Cornelius Fudge had been robbed both at home and at work by thieves coordinating their raids on the Ministry and their homes.

The second was that Kingsley Shacklebolt had reported that word on the Ministry grapevine was that Umbridge was apparently in talks with Fudge to call off the hearing against Harry. This happened not long after she received a visit from Saul Croaker. And if those two were related, Dumbledore had to wonder, what was Croaker's interest in Harry? Had Croaker discussed the prophecy with Umbridge? Or was there another reason for the Unspeakables interfering? Dumbledore couldn't help but be suspicious, especially when there was any danger of Harry Potter escaping his control.

The third thing was indeed signs of the boy doing that very thing. The boy had become wilful and moody, even defiant. While understandable to a degree, the boy became withdrawn, keeping only a few people in his confidence. He was distancing himself from the Weasley family, which simply would not do. About the only consolation was that, after an initial spat, he stayed reasonably close to Hermione, and the girl would at least keep him on an even keel. Such a wonderful girl, so deferential to authority, not like that spitfire Lily Evans became.

Dumbledore wasn't worried about the boy going Dark, despite the boy's apathy towards his guardians' fate. Rather, it was Harry going outside of his control. Harry was a weapon, shaped into being a martyr. And if he survived the battle with Voldemort, then Dumbledore could use him as his mascot, as a golden boy who was to be an icon to the Light, and as a protégé, to fill him with his ideology, to keep Magical Britain the way it should be.

If he did die, then he could fulfil the same role as a martyr, as a symbol. Either way was fine. Dumbledore merely kept making sure Harry would survive, and perhaps even survive his final battle with Voldemort, so that he could stage-manage the boy's life.

Though that was looking to become difficult. He deliberately kept Harry in the dark because he needed to control the information going to Harry. The loss of the Dursleys and thus any justification for Harry staying at Little Whinging was annoying, as they had done such wonderful work of shaping Harry's psyche, but Dumbledore thought he could work something out. He had another year at least, though he needed to ensure the increasingly-insolent and independent Sirius Black didn't get his grubby paws on Harry.

Dumbledore was, at heart, a control freak. That was what his lover Grindlewald had recognised, though Grindlewald hadn't realised that there were more subtle ways of achieving the Greater Good. One didn't need to seize power, one merely had to set one's self up in such a way that people gave you the power voluntarily.

While he didn't go out of his way to force events to occur, Dumbledore was a master opportunist. When Trelawney made that prophecy, and Snape happened to overhear it, Dumbledore hadn't meant for that to happen, but he took advantage of it. He made plans for what would happen next, and utilised them. He didn't know that Sirius had switched with Pettigrew as Secret Keeper, but he took full advantage of the ignorance of the rest of Magical Britain. Unfortunately, the damned mongrel had escaped Azkaban, and he only allowed Sirius to escape custody in the end because he wanted Sirius indebted to Dumbledore.

Harry too owed Dumbledore debts, albeit debts of Dumbledore's own engineering. And yet, the boy was beginning to forget those debts, rebelling. Not truly openly, but he was showing a disobedient streak that was worrisome. Not so worrying as to warrant bringing him under control with, say, a potion, but enough to want to keep an eye on the boy. Especially as he seemed to prefer sleeping within a magical trunk. The boy was hiding something, and Dumbledore wanted to make sure that Harry remembered his place, which meant that he revealed his secrets to Dumbledore…even if Dumbledore kept secrets from Harry.

It was, after all, for the Greater Good.


So, some discussion between Croaker and Bones about things, and Dumbledore being a megalomaniac. The next chapter, hopefully, will concentrate on the raid on Gringotts. We need to get back to the Lunar Harmony, goddammit!

Incidentally, if you want some more Harry being on the wrong side of the law stories, why not try my new Black Lagoon crossovers? While featuring the same pairing (Harry/Sawyer), they have somewhat different flavours, with Disquiet being my first published foray into WBWL territory, and Quoth the Raven… having Harry become a raven Animagus.

Review-answering time! raw666: Hmm…unfortunately, I'm not sure how Harry, Hermione and Luna could do that…unless Hermione planted suggestions in their minds that someone had stolen from them. Hmm…

1. Amber Baum was an OC I created for my story (and sequel to my Flurry story In Spite of Obstinate Men) In Spite of Appearances. She was a Muggleborn successor to Crouch, and while she shared his drive and no-nonsense attitude, she was considerably more humane.