Percy helps Harry (without intending to!)

Summary Hermione tricks Percy into exposing Umbridge's blood quill detentions. The fallout from that takes some interesting turns.

Legal Disclaimer anything you recognise in this story belongs to someone else, most likely to JK Rowling and/or her business partners. Any characters you don't recognise are mine. The specific plot in this fic may be mine; I say "may be" because fanfiction is vast, and one can never be sure there isn't a very similar one elsewhere. I'm not getting anything out of writing this except the satisfaction of fixing what I perceive to be brokenness in the world that JKR created; think of it as a variation on the mindset depicted in xkcd 386.

Errata: For some reason I wrote "Azkaban" instead of "St Mungos" at one point. Yeah - old age I guess :) Fixed now. Thank you to the people who caught it, and apologies to those who were confused!

(Context: fifth year, detentions with Umbridge have started. This is just before Harry's third detention, whenever that may have been in the calendar).

Harry bit his tongue to prevent himself from shouting at Umbridge again. She was refusing to accept that Voldemort had returned, and had given him a third detention just now. When he mentioned that he already had detentions tonight and the following night with Snape, she was gleeful.

With a cruel smirk, she had said, "I see I am not the only professor to have trouble with you. Perhaps Professor Snape and I together can get you expelled. And since you have not finished your owls, we can break your wand, wipe your memories, and banish you from the wizarding world!"

Ron had looked horrified at the prospect, but frankly, as far as Harry was concerned, it was not such a big deal. Ever since Cedric's death, he had been somewhat disillusioned with the wizarding world. The sham trial during the summer had just made things worse - in fact he had almost caught himself wishing they would find him guilty, as long as the punishment did not involve Azkaban.

(In preparation, during the gap between arriving at Grimmauld and his actual trial date, he had snuck off to Gringotts, withdrawn ten thousand galleons, and converted it to muggle pounds. The fifty thousand pounds - in the form of a banker's draft on a muggle bank that was the front for the goblins in the muggle world, was now burning a hole at the bottom of his school trunk. It was, on his request, heavily charmed with goblin magic to look like a letter from his uncle Vernon, telling him he was no longer welcome at his home.)

That evening, after dinner, Harry made his way to the dungeons. He was depressed and disappointed, and even his girlfriend of a few days, Hermione, was unable to cheer him up.

Hermione, meanwhile, was stressing herself out. She just knew that the bitch would once again force Harry to use a blood quill. The first time, the bleeding had stopped only after more than an hour of using the murtlap essence. The next time took longer, and she was sure now it would never heal at all.

Ron, meanwhile, had just received a letter from Percy. Pompous, pontificating, patronising, pusillanimous, prick, that he was, he had written a letter that dripped concern for Ron, laced with not-at-all-subtle warnings, to rid himself of Harry. Ron showed the letter to Hermione, with a sigh.

Hermione looked at it. It had ended with, "if you would like to discuss this, or need further clarifications, please talk to me", and a floo address was supplied.

This gave her an idea. This would be risky, and could backfire in a small way if it was not done properly, but if she knew the personalities involved as well as she thought she did, it could work.

The following day, shortly after lunch time, found a school owl winging its way to the Ministry of Magic, carrying a letter from Ron to his brother Percy.

Dear Percy, it said.

If I had gotten your letter even a week ago, I would have not believed you. Harry has been such a good friend, and you know he saved Ginny's life back in my second year. We owe him as a family.

But now, all of a sudden, his behaviour has changed, and quite dramatically, I might add! He talks back to professors - especially Professor Umbridge - in a very disrespectful manner, and has already earned three detentions! I agree with you that I should, perhaps, stay away from him, as well as to try to convince Hermione to stay away.

But I don't want to do that this very minute. Harry has been a good friend - and again I remind you we as a family owe him - so if we can bring him back to our side, and support the minister instead of Dumbledore, it will be a huge win for you, and I will have done my duty to my friend. In short, why make an enemy when you can turn him into a friend?

Tomorrow night is the third of Harry's detentions with Madam Umbridge, where she will be disciplining Harry for his misbehaviour.

Well, you know I have always been good at chess and strategy. So... here's the plan...

The next morning, Percy walked into the offices of the Daily Prophet. Stopping at the reception, he asked for the editor, Barnabus Cuffe.

Since he was known to be working closely with the Minister, he was almost immediately ushered into Cuffe's opulent corner office.

After they had exchanged pleasantries, Percy got down to business.

"Mr Cuffe, I am here in a quasi official capacity, in the sense that my superiors don't know I am doing this. But there is a good reason for that, which I will explain by and by", he said.

"I have, for you and one of your reporters and one of your photographers, a golden opportunity to see the ministry taking positive action to help some disturbed individuals redeem themselves and be productive members of society again. However, there are certain reasons due to which I would want some unbreakable oaths before I give you any more details".

"What kind of oath, and from whom?"

"Well, the oath is simple. You will all swear that you will report and publish what your reporter saw exactly as they saw it, and any photographs will be printed exactly as they were taken. Absolutely no embellishment of any kind. Just in case your reporter is biased and makes sure they only see what they want to, there is a clause that says they will make sure they have covered everything that could be considered relevant".

(Ron had explained to him that if someone like Rita was sent up, she would make the whole story so unbelievable with her lies and exaggerations, that Harry would not feel any remorse at all. It needed to be a bare facts, unemotional, unquestionably impartial and unbiased, story, in order to make Harry think beyond his current issues and take a big-picture view. Percy struggled to explain that to Cuffe without giving away that this was Harry Potter he was talking about, but somehow managed, with a little misdirection here and there).

"Who should take the oath?"

"Well, you of course, because you control what exactly gets printed. You will send one reporter and one photographer, and they both also need to swear the oath. Rita Skeeter would fit the bill, but you and I both know she'd have a hard time writing the bald truth, without embellishing it beyond belief. Your call if you can convince her."

"Why do you need the oath at all? You don't trust us?"

"Well, no not really. Your paper has a reputation for hyperbole, for making a mountain out of a molehill."

"So what? It's still based on facts."

Percy sighed. "I don't want to get into that discussion at this point. Suffice it to say that in this case, unless you swear this oath, I'm walking out. I am perfectly happy to explain my reasoning after you and the staff you are sending have sworn".

Cuffe thought about it for a moment, and realised he had nothing to lose. It also depended on the oath of course, but he was really curious now, too.

He suspected this was about Harry Potter - everyone knew Weasley's youngest brother was thick with Potter. Of course, the ministry was mounting a smear campaign against the boy, but what was Weasley's interest in this? Apparently there was only one way to find out.

He decided not to call in Skeeter for this, going instead with Miles Burg-Bryce, one of the older, less flashy, reporters he had on staff. This man was much more dependable, and if he had to swear an oath to be absolutely truthful he may as well use him.

Miles came in with his photographer partner, a Cyril Thormore. They both dutifully sat down in the chairs offered, and waited expectantly.

Cuffe explained what was going on, and then asked Percy for the wording of the oaths. Percy handed him two sheets of parchment, one for him (Cuffe), and one for the other two.

"I see you've covered the loophole of me having these two swear, then sending someone else", said Cuffe, with a hint of admiration.

Percy smiled. "Yes. Basically, I just want to make sure that this is reported correctly and without bias".

Once the three swore, Cuffe asked him for details.

"Well, as you probably guessed, this is about Harry Potter. I realise he seems to be beyond hope, but look at it this way...", and he explained Ron's reasoning, except he made it sound like his own.

"In summary", he concluded, "if we can make Harry Potter recant his ridiculous stories about you-know-who and unequivocally support Minister Fudge, that is a worthy goal".

Cuffe was still not sure. "None of this explains why it is necessary to be objective and bland in reporting tonights disciplinary session".

Percy decided to throw his brother a bone here. "Well, I've been in touch with my brother Ron ever since I thought of this", he lied shamelessly, "and he says anything beyond the plain facts will upset Harry enough to distract him from thinking about the issue objectively enough to come around. His anger will occlude his reason, my brother wrote, and we need to give him as little as possible."

Miles spoke up. "In that case perhaps the article should be at least a little sympathetic to him. You know, call him misguided instead of intentionally disruptive, etc.?"

Percy nodded. "Can't hurt", he said.

"And why is it that the minister does not know about this, and should not know about this till the paper comes out?"

"Simple. Plausible deniability. They cannot be seen to have instigated this. That also will have the same effect on Harry", said Percy.

Percy went home a happy man. He was looking forward to the accolades that would roll his way when this came out tomorrow.

At the back of his mind, there was a very small nit that was bothering him, but try as he might, he could not think what it was, and eventually he decided to ignore it.

That evening, Miles Burg-Bryce and Cyril Thormore flooed in to The Three Broomsticks. From there, they walked quietly to Hogwarts, finding the gates shut but unlocked. A gentle push opened them just enough for them to walk through (Security? Hah!, thought Miles).

They both knew where Umbridge's office was, and walked quietly up the stairs. No one saw them, no one challenged them.

They silently opened the door, stepped in, and listened. A few minutes later, it was clear that Cuffe had been royally "had", as they say. Miles was not particularly bothered - he was already known to be objective and fact-based, something which had impeded his career a bit.

He signaled to Cyril that he should be silent, and that the photos would be last - it was very clear Umbridge would not like this, yet their oaths prevented them from any actions other than required to get the full story.

At the end, on a signal from Miles, Cyril took two photographs in quick succession - one a close-up of Harry's hand, one of the box of quills, with Umbridge standing behind them.

With the first one, of course, Umbridge noticed, and screamed bloody murder. She whipped out her wand, and made to curse Cyril, who by that time had leapt away from the desk and closer to the door, and had - despite the distraction - taken a long-shot of the room and its two occupants.

It took Harry all of two seconds to realise that first, there were now witnesses to his torture, including photographs, that it was nothing he was ashamed of, so clearly any harm could only be to Umbitch, and finally that the reporter was not Skeeter. And Umbridge was pointing her wand at this reporter.

His first impulse was to tackle the bitch to the ground, but his Slytherin side woke up and took over.

"Madam Umbridge", he called out, running to her and pushing her arm down. "There is never a reason to learn any defensive or offensive spells, you said. If faced with any hostile situation, you must call the aurors and wait for them, you said."

Looking at the reporter, and particularly the expression on his face, gave him some hope. He thrust his defense textbook at him, and said, "this is what she teaches from. She is making sure that no one will get above a P or a T in their defence OWLs this year. Take this book with you and read it and draw your own conclusions", he said.

The reporter and photographer made their way out. Harry followed them, Umbridge still screaming at them, only to find Ron waiting outside, with several other students - most of them Gryffindors but a few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws also - waiting.

Dean and the other students swarmed to the reporter and the photographer, showing them their cut and in some cases still bleeding, hands.

Only Harry noticed Hermione hanging back behind all of them and to the side, almost completely hidden by a suit of armour. As Umbridge came through the doorway of her own office, still screaming, a silent, almost invisible, spell shot out of Hermione's wand, and Umbridge was petrified. She fell backwards, back into her office, knocking her head hard enough to lose consciousness on top of the petrifaction. Another spell locked the doors with a more complex version of the locking charm. Finally, Hermione cast a massive notice-me-not charm on the whole gathering (to make sure no teacher or student found them and interfered), then disappeared before there could be any possibility of the reporter or photographer seeing her.

The morning of the next day was chaos in the wizarding world. Miles Burg-Bryce and Cyril Thormore had done a bang-up job of documenting everything they saw, including thirteen photographs of children with hands cut open by a blood quill, of which five were bleeding.

There was a detailed description of the course work that she was teaching, and an interview - God alone knows how Miles managed it - with Madam Marchbanks saying that anyone following that book was guaranteed a "T" in the OWLs, and that had she known the professor had assigned that book, she would have personally gone to Hogwarts and declared an honor duel against the "bloody f-ing moron". (Her words, not the reporters. And she was older than Dumbledore and known to be invariably prim and proper, so this was saying something!)

There was also an interview with Harry Potter, who swore under oath to the reporter (there was even a photograph of the flash of light following his oath) that Voldemort had indeed returned, and he was prepared to submit his memories to the newspaper, and to veritaserum questioning subsequent to that, as long as they made sure the ministry would not interfere.

They spoke some more, but not long. Running short of time, Miles had to be content with that, and had left, otherwise there would have been much more.

Miles was pulled up by his boss, Barnabus Cuffe, but it was clear his heart was not in it. As Miles had suspected, Cuffe felt cheated - clearly Weasley had played a much deeper game, and had tricked him into making the Prophet take a stand directly against the current minister's.

The minister had summoned Cuffe to his office. Just before Cuffe was entering Fudge's inner office, he saw the head of the DMLE, Amelia Bones, come out of her offices a few doors away, clearly headed the same way.

"How dare you print something like that without checking with me?", he yelled at Cuffe. "I will have you in Azkaban for this, if not the veil, and your family thrown out of the wizarding world".

Cuffe had a split second to make a decision. Bones had already entered the room - she had not bothered to knock - and had clearly heard what the minister had said.

He decided to brazen it out. It was clear who had won this round, and he was a Slytherin.

Coldly, he said, "you sent your minions to trick the Prophet into printing something against the boy-who-lived for the last time. The first few times, we believed you, and took Umbridge's words in good faith and published what you and Umbridge said. This time, your minion Weasley was such an idiot he could not keep the glee off his face as he spun us a fantastic story of Harry Potter running amok and threatening Umbridge while in detention."

Turning to Bones, he continued. "That stretched the bounds of our belief so much that we did a little digging, and realised he and Umbridge had been feeding us false information all these days! We decided to go ahead with what Weasley had asked us to do anyway, to get at the truth."

Back to Fudge, he said, "I am ashamed of ever having supported you. You are finished. I am going to print this threat you just made against me and my family in a special edition for the evening, and I will see you and your bitch Umbridge in Azkaban or the veil."

"Do you have any more information for us, Mr Cuffe", said Amelia.

"Madam Bones, can I ask why there was no investigation into the dementors in Surrey back in the summer?"

Bones looked with loathing at Fudge. "Well, I suppose he will not be my boss for much longer, so I can start disobeying his direct orders right away", she grinned. "Why don't you join me, Mr Cuffe. I know your reporting days are long gone, but the thrill of following a lead and digging for details can't really go away, can it? Let us go check the DMLE records and see what we find", she said.

Amelia was still a looker, at her age, and Cuffe wasn't exactly old. He held out his arm, she took it, and they left a spluttering, apoplectic, Fudge to stew in his own juices. On her way out, she winked at a DMLE staffer who was holding an absolutely enormous number of howlers and other mail, some of it probably harmful, at bay in an enclosed area. The man winked back, and decided he need to tie his shoelaces urgently, and it was just bad luck that the movement he made with his wand to tie his laces was the same as that required for releasing the held mail.

The only sad part was that Fudge's trial was delayed by a day, while he recovered from the combination of harmful substances in some of that mail.

Umbridge woke up, groggy and disoriented, at about 2am. She took a potion to rid herself of the headache, and called her elf to wake her up at 6am. She had to deal with the Potter bastard before breakfast.

Her elf woke her up at 6am sharp, with a cup of tea and the morning paper. Spraying the tea all over, Umbridge thought about what she should do. The castle would not wake for another hour, so she had some time.

She dressed for a day at the ministry, and took the floo at 7am. Shortly after, she entered Fudge's outer office, and heard everything Cuffe said to Fudge. Upon realising it was Percy who was responsible for this, she quickly left the outer office, and went to the ministry records room to find Weasley's address. It took a while, and she could not apparate directly, since she had never been there, but that would do.

Too bad she did not wait till she heard the last part of Cuffe's and Bones' conversation. She may have thought to do something about the DMLE record room, instead of wasting time with the ministry records!

Percy Weasley woke up with a pleasant feeling in his mind, the kind you get from doing some good to someone. Ron was right - there was no point making an enemy of someone if you could turn them to you.

He picked up the morning paper, and promptly threw up the little coffee he had drunk so far. He had never imagined he would be the cause of such negative press covfefe for his beloved minister.

How in blazes had this happened? Did Ron- his thoughts screeched to a halt. The "nit" that he could not quite place yesterday was now clear. The language was not Ron's. The choice of words, the spelling, the flow - Ron was not capable of any of that. Someone else had tricked him - must be Potter, damn him!

He calmed himself down. He could still spin this. The minister was out, so he could just- hearing a knock on the door, he paused. Considering the article, this may not be someone coming to congratulate or thank him.

Having no choice, he opened the door, with his wand out, and ready for anything.

Unfortunately, he had not expected someone so short, and was caught off-guard when a reducto, weak but at point-blank range, hit his manhood and "family jewels".

Bleeding and in extreme pain, he staggered back into the room. His attacker - he now saw who it was - followed him, and shut the door behind her. No point alerting the neighbours.

Percy quickly realised that she would not let him off with whatever damage she had already done. He needed to get to the hospital, and quickly. He could not afford to let her get in any more curses.

Summoning all his strength, he pointed down at her head and fired off a reducto. He missed, hitting one of his bookcases instead.

Umbridge realised she was out of her league, and apparated out.

Percy used the standard ministry issued medical emergency portkey and landed in St Mungos. He would live, but would no longer be able to pee standing up. When he asked about having children, or some sort of sex life, the doctor started laughing.

Umbridge was not thinking where she was going when she apparated out of Percy's apartment. By force of habit, she landed at her own home, only to find a team of aurors ransacking the place looking for evidence. One quick witted auror saw her and immediately stunned her.

The trial of Umbridge lasted barely two hours. The charges against Umbridge were many, but either of the two main ones - attempted murder of Harry Potter by dementor kiss, and torture by illegal dark artefact of several minors - would have been enough for a life in Azkaban. Combined, they were enough to put her through the veil that evening.

Dumbledore seemed as if he wanted to attempt an intervention, but one look at Harry Potter's face told him it would not be a wise move. He was lucky he escaped censure for not knowing that blood quills were in use, and that because Umbridge was known to be a Fudge minion, people were more interested in hanging Fudge than to dilute the case against him by pulling Dumbledore into the story.

During the few hours Umbridge was left stewing in a holding cell, she had a strange visitor. A somewhat manic-looking house-elf turned up inside her cell, and in his high-pitched voice, told her, "Master Harry Potter Sir's Miss Herminy Grangy told me to tell you this is what happens if you mess with her boyfriend. And Dobby be's telling you if Master Harry Potter Sir's Miss Herminy Grangy did not do this then Dobby be's doing something even more nasty to nasty pink witch". Then the elf disappeared.

That did not help her mood any, but her angered screams and threats were already incoherent, and so the aurors had silenced her cell so as not to be bothered by the noise she was making. Which also meant no one else, except her, heard the elf.

She died cursing the mudblood bitch that had done this to her somehow, though she could not fathom how, and bemoaning the fact that she was now powerless to do anything.

Fudge's trial was the next day. He had not known of the dementor attack before hand, to start with, though it looked like he may have guessed the truth afterward.

As such, he may have gotten off a wee bit easier but for one problem: one of the witnesses against him was Harry Potter, and his agenda had changed completely now that Umbitch was dead.

Riding on a wave of public sympathy for himself and his fellow students, especially after the attempted murder by Fudge's closest ministry confidant was made public, Harry brought out all his angst against the minister.

Focusing on Sirius instead of Voldemort for the moment, he told a tale of an innocent godfather imprisoned for a decade. Without a trial. He told of the true betrayer of his parents being alive and hiding among wizards all these years. He told of informing Fudge about this, and how, instead of investigating, Fudge had instead redoubled his illegal efforts to have Sirius killed on sight.

Harry had paused for a second to make sure he had everyone's attention, and said, "since Sirius never had a trial, that would have been nothing short of state-sanctioned murder. I consider this no less an attempted murder than Umbridge's attempt on me was, and the reasons are not far to seek".

"What reasons would those be, Mr Potter?"

"Ask him using veritaserum; it'll be more believable that way."

At that moment, Lucius Malfoy suggested a short break.

Amelia Bones looked at Harry briefly, and gave a very small smile. He had already warned her of his suspicions regarding who had bribed Fudge to have Sirius killed on sight (Lucius Malfoy) and why (hoping Draco would be the next Lord Black). He had also said that if the trial started to turn too revealing, Malfoy or one of his cronies would bring in reinforcements, and in the worst case Voldemort himself might turn up, though that was a long shot - he was after all staying under the radar for some reason, and he wouldn't easily break that.

She rose and declared a short recess before Fudge would be given veritaserum, then quickly left the courtroom.

Lucius Malfoy smirked at Harry, and mouthed something that may have been "you die today" at him (though Harry was no lip-reader), then left after Madam Bones.

The rest of the Wizengamot streamed out for a bathroom or snacks break right after Malfoy. If any of them noticed Madam Bones pick up what looked like a dead (or at least unconscious) ferret from the ground, and take it to her office, they did not comment on it.

And if anyone else exiting the room wondered how Malfoy had reached the other end of the corridor so fast that they could not see him, they did not ask about that either.

There were only three other suspected death-eaters who were on the Wizengamot: Parkinson, Nott, and Yaxley. It was a good thing none of them were regular attendees (attendance was not mandatory), and so Malfoy did not think too much on why they were absent. In fact, security at the floo entrance (no death eater would use the muggle telephone box anyway) was beefed up and they were told to silently track and incapacitate any of a list of suspected death-eaters if they turned up. (In the event, only Parkinson had turned up).

Macnair was also detained. He was a bit tougher and a bit more trigger happy compared to the others, so a little more finesse was needed. A junior auror went to his office and told him there was an unknown beast on the loose on the DMLE floor, and they'd disabled it but they wanted him to take a look before they killed it.

Such an outlandish request could not possibly be fake, so he went. A stunner from behind the door hit him as soon as he walked in, and into a holding cell he went. They'd worry about the paper work later.

(Amelia Bones burned a lot of favours that day, but only from trusted aurors. She carefully picked only those who were either muggle-born, half-bloods, or who had lost family to death-eaters in the last war, but even so, a couple of them questioned the extra-legal methods she was suggesting. She had assuaged them by telling them she had inside information that these people were indeed bona fide death-eaters, who had murdered and raped several people before Halloween 1981, and that they were welcome to have a private veritaserum questioning if they had any doubts. She reminded them that Harry Potter was rapidly being vindicated in his claims that Voldemort was back, and as such, having death-eaters in such high-placed and trusted positions, or even on the loose, was extremely dangerous to society. She finally swore an oath that she would take all moral and legal responsibility, should anything come up later).

Fudge's trial went as expected. Madam Bones decided not to get too ambitious and try and get all the death-eaters convicted in one shot. She knew that Lucius Malfoy was the lynchpin, and she was happy to get him today.

Fudge dutifully implicated himself and Lucius Malfoy completely. Fudge knew that Sirius was innocent, but did not care - as long as he was being paid, he did not care who lived or died. And Lucius paid well.

Clearly this was not an isolated incident, and Madam Bones took advantage of it by digging deeper - being careful to only ask about Malfoy - and finding several more people who had been killed for convenience. After the third such victim was named, the Wizengamot decided to hang Fudge. This time Dumbledore did try to intervene, but he was shouted down.

He tried appealing to Harry.

"Harry, my boy", he addressed him across the hall. "You need to show some kindness of heart. Everyone can be redeemed - this is what I have always said, and I am sure you know the value of mercy."

Harry stared at him in disbelief. "Albus, my old man", he said in just as patronising a voice, causing titters to break out. The court clerk took offense and said "you must address the Chief Warlock with respect, Mr Potter", he shouted indignantly. Dumbledore smiled genially and said "Do not fret, Mr Grainfield, it is my fault to have addressed Mr Potter with familiarity unsuited to these chambers. Mr Potter, please continue".

"Chief Warlock, yes I do know the value of mercy. I was merciful to Peter Pettigrew when we had caught him, and that resulted in the death of Cedric Diggory. That is what mercy gets you. And also, you say he was not a marked death-eater. True, but the sum of his sins, and the cost in human lives, makes him just as bad. He will pay the price he illegally attempted to make my godfather pay."

Shortly after, a new minister was elected and sworn in. Madam Bones would have been a sure winner but she was not interested, so eventually it was Cyrus Greengrass who became the minister. The Greengrass family was traditional enough to appease the purebloods, but had enough muggleborn friends and other connections for the light side to feel comfortable.

After that, Harry asked for a trial for Sirius, and was granted. Two aurors (who else? Tonks and Shacklebolt - Madam Bones clearly knew who were members of Dumbledore's oh-so-secretive order!) were sent to fetch him. Since no one officially knew where the fugitive was, they sent him a patronus to meet in a neutral location, and then they would bring him in.

The Wizengamot took this opportunity to take a lunch break. When they re-assembled at 2pm, Sirius was already in the court room, looking for all the world as if he was merely sitting in the prisoner's chair because there was no room among the Lord's seats. He greeted several people genially, tactfully ignored some others (time enough to be blunt after he was free!), and generally had fun.

His trial was short and simple. He requested veritaserum, so that made a lot of things easier. Other than registering as an animagus, he was clear. Compensation would be discussed later, but frankly, he didn't give a damn - whatever the ministry would give him would be meagre compared to his wealth.

Sirius took a table near the end of the bar, facing the door so he would see when the people he had asked to meet him here arrived. He was expecting one of them to arrive separately from the other two, but coincidentally, all three walked in together, the two greeting the one at the door. They saw Sirius and made their way across the room to his table.

"A man, a woman, and a werewolf walked into a bar", said Sirius, prompting a guffaw from Croaker, a scathing look from Amelia, and a grin from Remus. "You're lucky they already know, you mangy mutt!" said Remus.

After ordering some drinks, waiting for them to be delivered, and taking a few sips, Amelia came down to business.

"So, what did you call us for?"

Sirius visibly sobered up from the chatty, flighty mood he had been showing.

"I want to talk about the dementors. We all know who they allied with during the last war. Now we have proof he is back, we need to take active measures to prevent them from following him. We need to prevent them from leaving Azkaban at all."

Amelia looked to Croaker.

"Hmm, we don't have anything for that, and not for lack of trying, mind! But on a completely different note, we have been working on something else for a few years now - since the last war actually."

Drawing out the suspense a little, he paused a bit, then continued. "We have been working on a localised ward that detects the dark mark, or the dark lord himself, and temporarily removes magic from the person."

"Why have I not heard of this till now? I assume it works, right?"

Amelia looked very excited, so he had to quickly gave her the bad news. "Unfortunately, the temporary part isn't working. It takes away the person's magic permanently."

"Whom did you test it on?" asked Amelia.

Croaker was not afraid of Amelia's position and how it could impact him, so he felt no need to lie or even prevaricate. "We stole Rookwood from Azkaban and tested it on him. I'm sure you realise that a lot of us are boiling mad at him for tainting our reputation."

"You stole a pri- you know what, never mind. I didn't hear this, and anyway it is well known you guys do whatever you want and no one can actually stop you. Back to Rookwood - I suppose you made it look like he had been accidentally kissed, because last I heard he was dead. We even investigated how that happened, but that was a few years ago so I don't remember the details."

"No we actually had him kissed before we put him back in his cell".

The other three shuddered. No wonder Lily had been an unspeakable - with her level of vindictiveness, she'd have fit right in!

"So how does this help us?"

"Well, we were looking into this because we wanted to use it on all Ministry entrances, as well as residences of various at-risk people. But we can't risk even death-eaters losing their magic simply due to an innocuous visit to the Ministry - the backlash would be heavy. And sadly we were unable to create an intent based trigger."

Remus caught on. "Excellent. We can't prove someone entering the ministry has bad intentions, but someone entering Azkaban certainly would."

"Can it be temporarily de-activated? Such as to send in new marked prisoners?"

"Yes. Takes some time, but can be done."

"And it only affects people with the dark mark? If any of my Azkaban-posted aurors lose their magic, I'll lose my fear of you lot and come after you", said Amelia.

"We're pretty sure it won't affect anyone else".

"Just pretty sure? Sorry. Can't risk it."

"Well, we do have something else also. One of your raids in Knockturn turned up a vanishing cabinet, and you guys sent it to us to find it's partner cabinet. Well, we couldn't find it - it must be broken or something. Anyway, we duplicated the magic of such a cabinet and built a new partner cabinet for the one we found. It will take at most two people at a time, and it takes a half a minute to do the job, so it seems ideal for auror rotation, while also preventing any en-masse use."

"Oh that is wonderful. Not having to go by boat will make it so much easier for my people", said Amelia. "I think we should put it in the center courtyard - visible to everyone - in Azkaban, and put the counterpart in the auror ready room at the ministry. Then ward all entrances to Azkaban with this new ward of yours so any attempt to breach it from outside will fail."

"Excellent!", smirked Sirius, while the other two said "good plan!".

(A few weeks later)

The next several weeks had been absolutely great for Harry. He now had a godfather he could go to in the summer, despite Dumbledore's attempts to claim it was safer for him in Surrey.

(During one of the order meetings, the topic of Harry's summer plans had come up. Sirius had waited for Dumbledore to mention "blood protection", and immediately pounced on him, with the extremely obvious fact that Voldemort had taken Harry's blood, and had in fact touched him without coming to any harm. Harry and Hermione had laughed at Sirius's animated description of that meeting. They were sure he had been exaggerating for comic effect but Harry appreciated that even more.)

Umbridge had been replaced by a recently retired auror called Vickers Langley, who was competent and fair, if a little dull. Moody (the real one) told Sirius, who relayed it to the kids, that he was not an extremely capable auror, but he was a good, solid, man for whom teaching would be well within his capabilities. His credentials in another direction were impeccable - he was a half-blood who had married a muggleborn, and still kept in touch with his muggle in-laws. Definitely not death-eater or sympathiser material.

Parkinson, Nott, Yaxley, and Macnair were all tried. Fudge's bribery had led to investigation of Bagnold's finances during her last few days, and there seemed to be more than ample suspicion of them having escaped by claiming the imperius, while actually being guilty. In each case, if truth serum questioning revealed at least three murders of innocent people unconnected with them in any way, they were sentenced to Azkaban for life, without parole.

Their trials had also implicated several others (notably Crabbe, Goyle, and a few others). Many were caught, trials held, and appropriate sentences carried out. Some of them were now in hiding, and were actively wanted.

Malfoy had not yet been found. Narcissa had attempted to file a missing person's report with the DMLE, but the DMLE refused to accept it. They claimed that he had gone missing precisely when the Wizengamot was weighing evidence against him, given by Fudge under veritaserum, and there was an arrest warrant out for him barely an hour after he was last seen.

Therefore he was not a "missing" person, but a "wanted" person.

Narcissa had taken Draco to Gringotts to see if the goblins would give him the headship of House Malfoy - which would at least indicate if Lucius was alive or dead. The goblins told her he was alive, which was a relief for the two, but also did not resolve the actual question.

On Christmas morning, just when Harry, Sirius, Remus, along with Hermione and her parents, plus most of the Weasley family except the three oldest boys, were set to open presents, Harry fell down screaming.

Red blood oozed from his scar, and after a fair amount of it had flowed out, a black-green, tar-like, substance started coming out. Hermione nearly gagged - so strong was the "dark" aura of that viscous liquid. Yet she refused to be turned away, and with Dobby helping her by conjuring damp washcloth after washcloth, she cleaned his wound. She kept at it until the flow stopped, by which time Harry was sleeping peacefully.

While they were debating whether to take him to St Mungos or not, Kreacher rushed into the room. He was jubilant, literally dancing around, holding up a blackened locket. Somehow, he had convinced himself - due to timing, no doubt - that Harry Potter was responsible for fulfilling his master's last wish.

The house on Grimmauld was much nicer to live in, after that. It's amazing how an elf's attitude - good or bad - affects the household!

(No one knew, but there were similar incidents in an extra-dimensional room in Hogwarts, a shack in a village somewhere in the north, and a vault in Gringotts.)

After that, for some reason that no one could fathom, the dark lord and his death eaters became strangely silent. The only "domesticated" death-eater was Snape, but he too had disappeared on Christmas eve, and so even Dumbledore was not sure what was going on.

Since Harry and Hermione refused to speak to him, or look him in the eye, he failed to notice that Harry's scar was healed. Only two years later, at his graduation, when he gave an interview to the Prophet, was that fact mentioned.

And by that time it was all moot - it was generally accepted that the dark lord was truly gone, along with all the death-eaters that were not in Azkaban on Christmas day, 1995.

Approximately one year later

Due to the vanishing cabinet, no one had reason to visit or walk the outside of the prison. The large doors were now locked from the inside - there was no need to open them. The boatman had been retired with a generous pension, and the landing dock had fallen into disuse.

When the team of unspeakables arrived to check, and re-charge if needed, the ward they had placed a year ago, they found a gruesome sight.

On the rocky walkway between the landing dock and the prison, where the ward was laid, lay the putrefying remains of several death-eaters, many of them with nails chipped, and hands bleeding, from trying to claw at the outside of the large doors.

Having lost their magic as soon as they landed, and unable to apparate or even use their wand for a simple warming charm, they had made desperate attempts to enter the building. Whether it was hunger, or the cold, or both, was not known, but they had died as helplessly and as hopelessly, as the muggles they had taken pleasure in torturing and killing in their heyday.

Perhaps, if this were in summer, the hardier among them may have managed to swim their way out, but Voldemort had chosen Christmas morning - knowing almost everyone would be at home and celebrating in some form or other - to attack Azkaban, so swimming would doom them just as much.

And behind them, on the pathway behind the dead death-eaters, the unspeakables found a cloak, some bits of bone (though most had blown away soon after), and what looked like spots of blood.

The End