Disclaimer: Harry Potter is property of JK Rowling. The Dresden Files are property of Jim Butcher. Original story concept and books 1 and 2 belong to Silently Watches. For the events of those books, see his story A Deal with a Devil available on at s/11188292/1/Deal-with-a-Devil
Chapter 20: Fudging It
Their opportunity came on the last day of the spring term. The majority of the students had just left for the Easter holiday, leaving Harry's group with almost entirely free run of the castle as the thestral-drawn carriages made their way up the side of the valley. Minister Fudge apparated into the valley just outside the gates wearing a green suit and bowler hat. He was escorted by a heavily scarred Auror escort with at least two prosthetics and a younger woman in a trainee's short jacket with bright purple hair.
Harry watched as they walked into the compound, then ghosted up to the cave in the world above.
"It's time?" Sirius asked, looking up from the game of solitaire he was playing with some pilfered tarot cards.
"The minister just entered the grounds, with an Auror," Harry nodded.
"Scraggly hair. Scars. Magic glass eye turning all over the place. He had a wooden leg," Harry briefly described him.
"Glass eye? Damn. Might be Moody," Sirius grimaced. "Damn thing can see through anything. Maybe even the animagus transformation."
"The animagus transformation isn't a disguise, so if it only sees through disguises and concealment it might not work," Harry told him. "At least, that's true of my sight anklet."
"Sight anklet? No, never mind. You can tell me all about it over the summer," Sirius grinned. "Let's go bag us a traitor," He shifted into his dog form, and Harry ghosted them back down a moment later.
Dumbledore and Fudge were still chatting in the courtyard. The Aurors were keeping watch over the area. The man stomped over towards Harry as he came back in through the gates, drawing his wand.
"You! Stop right there, you little miscreant! What're you doing sneaking around with a great black dog like that? Shouldn't you be running off home with the rest of the brats?" He demanded.
"Hogwarts… Caer y Bardd… is my home, Auror," Harry replied, flatly. "Professor Lupin is my family. Everyone else is dead."
"Hmm," The grizzled old Auror squinted, magical eye roaming wildly, then nodded. "Sorry, Potter. Didn't realise that was you. Nice anklet. Very good idea," He stomped back to the minister.
"That… was creepy," Harry muttered, and headed for the staff offices.
"The eye must be able to detect magic items as well as whatever else it does," Lash mused. "If you get the opportunity, it would be good to talk to him about it some time. His shoulder patch said Moody, so your godfather's assumption of his identity is likely correct."
Harry nodded, although he couldn't reply with Sirius right there. He followed the twisting paths of the compound until he reached Snape's office. A quick glance up showed him Tracey already in position on the roof. Invoking his anklet, he scanned the area. "We're clear," He reported.
Sirius changed back. Harry handed him Daphne's willow wand and the fugitive counterspelled the advanced locking charm on the door using an Auror-grade unlocking charm. They moved into the office, covering the corners with their wands.
"You're surprisingly good at this, pup," Sirius told him. "Been in many fights?"
"More than I would have liked," Harry replied. "There," He lowered his wands when he found the small cage with Pettigrew inside. "Change of plans. That cage is small enough for me to carry. We'll take it back and perform the charm right there in front of him."
"Right," Sirius nodded, shifting back to dog form. Pettigrew started going crazy inside the cage, throwing himself against the bars before trying to chew them open. Whatever Snape had made the cage of must have been stronger than steel, however, as the rat's teeth didn't even start to abrade it.
Harry picked the cage up by the handle on top of it and held it carefully away from his body to avoid any chance of being bitten through the bars. Outside, he waved Tracey down to join him and found that he wished for Sally-Anne's quiet presence as well. The muggleborn had gone out on the carriages, however, in accordance with her movement restrictions under the ministry.
Tracey shifted back to human once she was on the ground. "We doing it there? Probably easiest," She admitted. "Going to play it off as performing for the crowd?"
"I think so," Harry nodded. "Who knows? Auror Moody can't see through animagus transformations either…and Snape's gone off with the students so there's no chance of him interfering this time."
Harry and his companions jogged back to the courtyard, only to find that the Minister's party had moved on. Sirius sniffed around for a moment, before leading them out towards Trelawney's folley. Harry started to get a sinking feeling as they left the protection of the compound proper. Some of the dementors had left their place at the Gates to hover inside the valley, just visible as shadows against the ceiling.
They caught up with the minister's party as they left Trelawney's. The short politician was looking up at Dumbledore next to him, turning his bowler hat in his hands in an obvious nervous habit.
"I suppose it was too much to hope that your pet seer would have found him…" Fudge was saying as they came into earshot.
"Professor Trelawney's abilities have always been more focused on temporal divination than locational… Heisenberg's Principle of Divination applies to the best, I'm afraid," Dumbledore replied, before looking down the path. "Ah, Mr. Potter. Miss Davis. Did you have something you wanted to discuss with the Minister?"
"Ah, Albus, I'm not really sure we have time to-" Fudge started, apologetically.
"Yes, Professor, we do," Tracey talked over the ostensibly most powerful man in the country without batting an eyelid.
"We discovered this animagus sneaking around in our dormitory," Harry said, putting the cage on the floor in front of them. "He didn't look much like the pictures of Black on the posters, but… a man in a girls' dormitory…" He trailed off meaningfully.
"You caught Sirius Black sneaking around in a girls' dormitory?" Fudge's eyes lit up as they had hoped they would. "Albus, do you know a spell to force him to reveal himself?"
"I do indeed," Dumbledore lifted an eyebrow.
"Excellent. Just in case, though, I'd like a bit of extra protection…" Fudge smiled, and pulled out his six inch spruce wand. Raising it to the air, he performed a little ampersand-like gesture before intoning; "Expecto Dementum!"
"Did he just summon a dementor?" Lash wondered, her voice vaguely horrified. She only relaxed a little when rather than coming out of his wand, a trio of the foul creatures swooped in from the swarm above.
"If you wouldn't mind stunning him, Minister?" Albus asked, as he drew his fifteen inch elder wand and focused his mind on the notoriously difficult homorphus charm.
"Of course… Stupefy!" A pale bolt of sparking red light flashed out from his wand to hit the rat. Harry opened the cage cautiously, and placed the stunned rat on the ground.
Dumbledore twisted his wand through the motions and launched the blue spell at the rat, which expanded from the head and rapidly became a fat, balding man in grey robes.
"Oh. That is not Sirius Black." Fudge frowned.
"No, it is not," Dumbledore agreed, interestedly. He crouched next to the man and turned his face. "In fact, I do believe it is Peter Pettigrew."
"The war hero?!" Fudge yelped.
"The martyr," Dumbledore agreed. "Apparently less martyred than we were led to believe…" he frowned, and reached to draw Pettigrew's sleeve back.
Then everything went wrong. Fudge's weak stunner, more showy than effective, had been broken by the shock of the forced transformation. Pettigrew was playing dead. At the threat of being revealed, however, his nerve broke. He scrambled to his feet and drew his wand, preparing to apparate away.
"Rrr…. ou… don't..!" Sirius began talking before he began transforming, rendering his words unintelligible as he lost his religion at the idea of Pettigrew escaping again. He still had Daphne's wand in hand as he aimed it skywards to cast an anti-apparition ward. Angry, desperate and Azkaban-tormented he may have been, but he hadn't graduated from the Auror academy with top marks for nothing.
Pettigrew abandoned his attempt to throw himself at Dumbledore, grasping for his wand. Moody threw himself between the descending Dementors and the two children, while the Auror trainee knocked Fudge to the ground and covered him with her body.
"No! Sirius!" Harry called as he retrieved his own wand. "Expecto patronum!" He cast, fixing his mind on the purest happy memory he had, of sitting with his friends in the Luthiery simple chatting about nothing. Next to him, Tracey performed the same charm, both of them conjuring a thin mist that struggled to coalesce as the dementors ripped away those happy memories by the sheer weight of their presence. One of them descended on Sirius, hood lowered in preparation.
"No… no! I… I won't let you beat me..!" Tracey sobbed, her mist intensifying, shrinking as it tried to coalesce.
"Damn," Moody growled. He turned and grabbed the two students as more Dementors swept down on the group, attracted by the failing patronus charms. He reached for his magic and twisted, disapparating them through the collapsing ward with a sharp crack.
"No! Take us back!" Harry demanded. "You have to take us back!" He kicked Moody in his good knee, forcing him to the floor, and reached for his ghosting ring. "Dar-"
Moody grabbed his wrist and wrenched his arm behind his back painfully, slapping the back of his head to knock his glasses off and rolling on top of him.
"No," He growled. "I won't let you get yourself killed for nothing, boy. Tonks and Dumbledore will save them."
"Sirius is innocent!" Harry screamed, not even noticing the tears that were running down his face. "You could have saved him!"
"How, Potter?" The grizzled Auror snarled. "By letting you get Kissed?"
"If you cast a patronus you could have saved us all," Tracey hissed, fear blending into impotent fury into nothingness as she slipped into her suppression technique. She crouched, ready to attack, but she had noticed something that Harry was too blinded by emotion to realise.
"Are you joking, girl? Less than ten percent of wizards can cast that spell and I'm not one of them," Moody snarled. "Now settle down before you spook someone; and pay attention to your surroundings."
He let Harry go with a little shove, sending him tumbling to the floor. Harry scrabbled to retrieve his glasses and looked around, still holding them by the arms.
They were surrounded by a full squad of ten brown-coated Aurors with their wands out in a low-ceilinged circular room. The Ministry seal was laid into the white marble floor along with the emblem of the Auror's office.
"What's the situation, Moody?" An eleventh Auror, just entering the room, asked. He had a leonine cast to his features, yellowish eyes gleaming shrewdly behind wire spectacles.
"Pettigrew is alive. Black is dead. Tonks, the Minister and Dumbledore are with them along with about a hundred Dementors," He told them. "In the valley on Bardsey."
"Right. Shacklebolt, Robards, patronus duty. Dawlish, Angel, apprehensions. Moody, well done. Take the kids for a hot chocolate. You all look like you could use one," The leonine Auror commander ordered, immediately followed by four cracks of apparition. "Everyone else, back on standby," He turned and held the door for Moody. Harry and Tracey hesitated, before following the grizzled old veteran out into the desk-maze of the Auror Office. Moody's leg made a rhythmic click-thump as he marched over to the break room. Harry reached for his ring again, only for Lash to put her hand on his arm and shake her head.
"He's right," She said, softly. "It's too late. We would only get in the way."
"Bloody Dementors," Moody grumbled, holding the door open. "Bloody Fudge. What kind of an idiot assigns dementors as bodyguards anyway?" He flicked his wand around, levitating two blue cups with the Ministry's coat on them and a battered and scorched Noggin the Nog mug with a lid over to the sealed milk jug. A switching spell moved the milk to the mugs without having to unseal anything, then a flame charm shaped like a little chimera brought all three to near boiling.
"Did… did you just use Fiendfyre to heat milk for a drink?" Tracey asked, faintly.
"Only way to make sure it's just milk and no poisons or potions," Moody grunted, bringing out a packet of cocoa powder from somewhere inside his Auror coat and mixing it into the drinks. "Good purifying force, fire. Those will be hot, mind," He added, flicking the two generic mugs over to a little table between two couches.
"Thank you, Auror…" Harry whispered, sitting down with a soft thud. His rage had burned itself out with Lash's gentle admonishment and now he just felt profoundly empty and drained. "I've been telling people that for over a year," he added, thinking of Hirano's burn scars.
"You sit down too, girl," Moody ordered Tracey. "Terrible business. Takes me bloody ages to get over it every time I see one of those damn things."
"You… you have trouble with them too, sir?" Tracey asked, sitting next to Harry and taking the mug he wordlessly passed to her, wrapping her dementor-frosted hands around the nearly-too-hot blue ceramic despite the thawing pain.
"The more nasty shit you've seen, the worse they hit you," Moody grunted, pointing at his facial scars. "I've seen so much crap earning these that I'm practically useless around the buggers. Looking forward to next year, really."
"Why?" Harry asked, miserably. He recognised what the old Auror was doing, trying to distract them from what they'd seen, but he didn't care to be distracted.
"Retiring from the force as soon as Tonks lengthens her jacket," He replied. "Gonna get a nice quiet job as a schoolteacher."
"Teaching Defence?" Tracey asked, a little more willing to be distracted than her male friend.
"Aye, that's the short of it," He agreed. "Take my advice, you two," He groaned as he plonked down on a squashed chair opposite them, hauling his prosthetic leg up onto a coffee table with a wooden thud. "Don't join the Auror office. It's not worth your health."
"I'm thinking about giving up on the wizarding world entirely," Harry admitted, staring at it. "Seems like things are only going to get worse and the lot of you are pretty crazy."
"Gotta get yourself some OWLs first," Moody said. "And some Muggle certificates if you want to do more than raid bins."
"I can get an OWL inside a year if I work hard," Harry replied. "I have a muggleborn friend who plans to do the same…" he glanced at Tracey.
"I'm a bit behind, but honestly I'm considering it too," She admitted. "I'm not going anywhere valuable on the magic side anyway."
"Where's your Slytherin ambition, girl?" Moody asked with a nasty grin. "Planning to bring shame to our House?"
"I think Daphne beat it out of me sometime around Christmas in first year," she replied with a shrug. "I know my place."
"Bah. That old scrap o' fabric wouldn't have put you in Slytherin if it didn't see something in you. Even Goyle back in my day – dunderhead that he was – turned out to be a genius at beating kids up without getting caught. I think his son's in your year."
"Figures. Gregory's a total minion," Harry shook his head. "But good with plants. Him and Longbottom has to be one of the strangest friendships I've ever seen. I don't think they even talk to each other, just spend hours in the same greenhouse."
Moody grunted with a nod. "Good people, the Longbottoms. Frank and Alice were two of the most promising recruits we ever saw. Pity about what happened to them."
"Why, what happened?" Harry asked, curiously.
"Death Eaters' last hurrah after your old lady did Voldemort in," Moody explained, between sips of his chocolate. "LeStranges and Crouch Junior broke into their manor and tortured them till their minds broke. Cruciatus Curse, nasty business. Very nasty. They were just starting in on the kid by the time we got there."
"They used the Cruciatus Curse on a baby?" Tracey's face was white.
"Know about it, do you?" Moody asked.
"I have been made familiar with the three unforgivable curses," She replied, neutrally.
"Damn, girl," Moody shook his head. "And you managed a shield form patronus despite that. Whoever this Daphne is, she's dead wrong about you. Tell you what. If you two continue to impress me like this next year, I'll put you down for the early OWL myself and throw in my old Auror training manual while I'm at it."
"... thanks, Auror Moody. I think," Tracey ducked her head, blushing now.
There was a commotion outside the break room as the Auror team returned. Moody grunted and stood with a thud to lean out the door, which he then closed firmly before either child could think to slip past him.
"They just brought Black and Pettigrew in," He told them. "Sorry, kids. Looks like they've both been Kissed."
"Damn it…" Harry whispered. Lash's arms slipped around his shoulders, and he leaned into her as he sought the truth in the bottom of his chocolate.
It really wasn't fair.