A/N: Of course I couldn't re-post Harry's Secret Friend without re-posting the sequel. I truly believe I've grown as a writer since these two, but I can stand to get better.
MINISTER OF MAGIC STEPS DOWN
This morning, Cornelius Fudge announced his resignation as Minister of Magic, effective immediately. This comes as little surprise, as the British wizarding public has been crying out for Fudge's impeachment. This came as the result of the Ministry's denials that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has indeed returned. It was hard to deny the fact when the Dark Lord was seen torturing Harry Potter in the Ministry of Magic this past month.
It has also been widely rumored the Cornelius Fudge's regime was corrupt, taking bribes in order to get policies and laws passed, though no evidence has been offered up, this past year has certainly shown that Fudge was power crazed. Even going so far as forcing ridiculous educational decrees to pass at Hogwarts, and forbidding students to learn magic in some cases.
An emergency election will be held later this month to put in a New Minister of Magic, during this time, Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has been named interim Minster. (For more on Amelia Bones' career, turn to pg. 9)
SENIOR UNDERSECRETARY DOLORES UMBRIDGE'S TRIAL BEGINS NEXT WEEK
The Wizengamont is at last set to begin the trial against Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, and former High Inquisitor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Madam Umbridge has been accused of illegal use of a Blood Quill, an illegal dark artifact, and the use of the Cruciatus curse on none other than Harry Potter.
Umbridge is also being charged with illegal administration of Veritaserum on students. These charges came to light at the end of this past school year when parents of students, who had been punished by Umbridge for false accusations of rule breaking, had discovered the means of punishment.
Umbridge was named as Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher by the Ministry of Magic last August, and High Inquisitor of the school in October. It was her duty to inspect and weed out teachers believed to be incapable of proper teaching methods. It was later revealed this was no more than a charade by Cornelius Fudge to weed out people he feared would overthrow his rule.
"Umbridge was absolutely horrid. It was like she had a personal vendetta against Harry Potter." Said Pomona Sprout, Herbology teacher at Hogwarts. The professor went on to describe how Umbridge had gone so far as to confiscate brooms, inspect private mail, and take away points for trivial reasons.
Among those testifying against the former Professor will be several teachers from Hogwarts, and Harry Potter, who is believed to have suffered the most at the hands of the Undersecretary.
LUCIUS MALFOY SENTENCED TO LIFE IN AZKABAN
Lucius Malfoy, well known philanthropist, was sentenced yesterday for his role in the attack on the Department of Mysteries this past month. It has been discovered throughout the trial that Malfoy has been a supporter of You-Know-Who and had been able to avoid prison at the end of the last war by paying off officials. It was also discovered through questioning under truth serum that Malfoy has been using his golden influence to get policies introduced that would benefit himself and other pureblood families.
It has been speculated that Malfoy's endeavors had all been preparation for the return of the Dark Lord. Many in the Ministry deny these rumors, of course, but it is well known that Malfoy has been very friendly with Former Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Amelia Bones, acting Minister of Magic, has began a thorough investigation to weed out any who may have taken gold from Malfoy in exchange for secrets or favors.
As a result of Malfoy's prison sentence, all the family's assets were seized by the Ministry, and vaults in Gringott's were closed. Many dark artifacts, banned items, and other questionable contraband was discovered with in Malfoy manor. Malfoy's wife, Narcissa, has been unavailable for comment.
Draco Malfoy sat in the darkest corner of his room, the latest edition of the Daily Prophet in a shredded pile near his feet. He and his mother had left England soon after his father's trial began. Narcissa had known that they would lose everything and had tried to empty the family vaults of gold before the Ministry could seize it, but she had been too late.
So here he was, the son of one of the richest, most influential families in the wizarding world, in a dank, broken down shack in France. He wanted to be back in his home, with his servants and his bed, and his things. But now he was destitute, all because his father had been arrested doing the noble work of the most powerful wizard ever known.
"He was weak." Draco said to himself. The thought of his father rotting away in prison gave him a little smile. Draco had been feeling superior to his father for a while now. He felt his father had nothing more to offer in way of lessons. He'd seen how the world worked. Gold was power, and his family had loads of it. But Draco himself liked the power fear gave. He'd begun feeling it this past year when he'd tightened his control in Slytherin House. Those who chose to go against him had felt his power. He'd tortured younger students who chose to forsake their housemates and associate with lesser beings. He'd obliviate them afterwards, so they would not remember the torture, but would know pain when they awoke.
It was only a small taste of power, but it was enough. He had truly enjoyed how his housemates began to cower together and look to him for protection, unaware that he'd been the cause of their pain. Draco felt such pleasure when he thought of the things he'd done. He also had to thank Umbridge, without whom he never would have discovered the Room of Requirement. It had become the perfect hiding spot in which to commit his vicious assaults.
But none of this eased his mind now. Draco stared into the night through the window, his pale gray eyes searching the vast, empty field. He felt a rage unlike any he'd ever known. His misery over the loss of his home and money were dwarfed by his anger at the sole reason for it all. Harry Potter.
Draco had spent the better part of his holiday so far imagining ways in which to make the Gryffindor Golden Boy suffer. Dreams in which Potter was crawling, begging for Draco to release him from the pain, but Draco would never show mercy. Never would he cease his ministrations of suffering on the boy who had insulted and shamed him for so long. This year, Draco thought, Harry Potter would know what it meant to cross a Malfoy.
A knock at his door brought him back to reality. His mother, a magnificent specimen of womanhood, entered the dreary room. She was very beautiful, with a petite frame, and dark, haughty eyes. Her luminous blonde hair was only now showing the tiniest bit of gray. She carried herself proudly, and commanded attention when she entered a room. But she always seemed sad to Draco. He could never remember a moment in which she had ever smiled, truly smiled.
"He is asking for you." She said softly. Her voice was trembling, frightened. Draco never understood why. It should have been awestruck, or at least respectful, but then again, his mother, as radiant as she was, was as weak as Draco's father had been.
Draco stood, smoothing the front of his cloak. He followed his mother out and down a set of stairs to an open room, lit by a dying fire. There was a single chair, in which a cloaked figure sat. Draco approached and knelt reverently in front of the figure.
"Young Draco," A high cold voice spoke. "You have grown into a fine man, and I sense a great deal of power in you. Yes, kept hidden from your enemies. A wise choice. But now you wish to reveal your true potential to avenge yourself, am I correct?"
Draco nodded, never taking his eyes from the hood of the speaker. He felt no fear, or trepidation, as his father had said he would. All Draco felt was rage and the burning desire to hurt those who had wronged him.
"You desire to hurt, to cause suffering unimaginable to your foes. I can see you have had a taste of it this year. Yes, you liked it, didn't you? You shall have more, young Malfoy. This I promise" The shrouded figure cackled. "You shall be my disciple. My harbinger of death. Are you willing, young Malfoy, to become my instrument?"
"Yes." Draco snarled evilly. Neither the shrouded figure or Draco heard Narcissa cover her gasp. She stood in the shadows, watching, listening to the Dark Lord entice her son into a life that she knew he wasn't ready for.
"Present me with your right arm." the cloaked figure whispered.
"Forgive me, my Lord, but do you not mark your followers on their left?" Draco asked, tilting his head slightly.
"My followers, yes." the figure said, reaching a thin hand from within the dark robes. The hand was pale, ghostlike, except the patches of scorched red flesh.
"But my weapons, my most trusted disciples, are hidden from the rest, in case they need to be used to make an example of someone in my circle. Just as you have kept your true potential hidden from your enemies, so I keep my most valued weapons secret from mine. You shall be unknown to my followers, and my enemies. You, Draco, shall be my most secret of weapons. My most lethal of instruments. Your mark shall only be revealed in my presence. Now, present your right arm."
Draco smiled at the shrouded figure, and rolled up his right sleeve. The dark figure touched the skin on Draco's arm with a long, bone like finger. Draco heard nothing, but felt something wet slipping over his arm. He watched in the dim firelight, and saw nothing, but could smell flesh burning. He grimaced as his skin itched and seared with pain, and then it was over. On his arm was the Dark Mark, the sign of service to Lord Voldemort.
"I shall speak to you when I desire your services. You shall take orders from none but myself. If anyone comes to you with orders from me, you shall not heed them." The figure stood.
"Bow, Draco. Bow before your new lord."
Draco bent low, unable to keep the satisfied smile from his face.
"I shall have work for you soon. Until then, you will remain here, with your mother. You will return to Hogwarts, as normal. It is there that you shall begin your true purpose." The figure vanished in a haze of smoke. Draco looked at his newly marked arm, chuckling low as the mark faded completely from sight.
"What have you done?" Narcissa asked, coming from the shadows. "Are you so like you father that you follow his example so blindly?"
"You know nothing of my desires, mother. We have been embarrassed and shamed, and those who have wronged us will pay. Father was weak, afraid. You heard our master, I am to be his greatest weapon."
"You will die. You are not ready for this, and I don't think you truly understand what it means to serve. You are meant to die to teach your father a lesson. You are nothing more than fodder."
"Have you so little faith in me?" Draco finally turned to his mother.
"At this moment… Yes." Narcissa frowned. "I see your father's vanity and his idiocy in you. You will fail, Draco. You will fail and you will die."
"You will see, as will Potter. I am more powerful and dangerous than anyone can imagine. Good night, mother." Draco said quickly, returning to his room, leaving Narcissa to stare sadly into the fire. Narcissa watched her only child pass her and go back to his room. She had to believe that her son could be saved, but to whom did she go to? Someone Draco trusted, looked up to. The answer came in a flash. Quickly, Narcissa wrote a letter and beckoned to the family owl. She sent the bird on it's way, watching it fly away, praying that she could still undo this mess.
The loud crack of a wizard Apparating was swallowed up by the raging, howling winds. Severus Snape looked about him in curious wonder. He had known where he was going, but seeing it now made him feel apprehensive. Staring down the sheer cliff face into the churning, crashing waves below. He could smell the salt in the air, and feel the finest of mists on his face.
Snape looked about for the reason he'd journeyed so far from his home. He was a vile, self loathing person who preferred to be left in solitude with only the soft bubbling of brewing potions to keep him company. In all his existence, Snape had only ever had one friend, and he was the reason she had died. She had been the only good thing in his entire miserable life that made him feel he was worth something, and he, Severus Snape, had as good as destroyed that.
Snape shook off his dark thoughts. He hefted the bag he had brought with him, and once again began looking for the source of his journey. He held his wand aloft, lighting the tip to search for the trail he'd been told to take.
Once he'd found the tiny, almost invisible path, he followed it down the face of the cliff, treading carefully, as he was sure on misstep could land him in the turbulent waters below, and he wasn't fond of the idea of being crushed upon the jagged rocks.
At last, Snape came to the mouth of a deep, dark cave in the face of the cliff. He chanced another look at the note he'd been sent and went inside. The cave was unremarkable, as caves went. Snape picked his way carefully over the slippery floor, using his wand to light the safest path, until finally he reached a wide hole in the ground. Snape could see black water below him, reflecting his wand light off it's eerily calm surface. Once again Snape looked at his note. He raised his wand higher and found the roughly cut steps on the opposite side of the hole. He proceeded down again, thinking again that he would destroy the one responsible if this turned out to be some sort of prank.
When he reached the bottom of the steps, he found himself on a little inlet, facing a dark tunnel, flooded with icy water. He peered into the darkness, frowning at what he had to do next, and searching for any signs that he had been duped. But then he saw the faintest glow at the other end of the tunnel. Another wand was lit, and waving him towards it.
Snape heaved a weary sigh and jumped into the frigid water. It was a long, arduous swim, the icy water making his muscles nearly unresponsive. He clawed and kicked himself forward, his breath becoming shallower with each movement as the water threatened to freeze him solid.
And then, finally, his feet touched the bottom, and the water began to shallow out. Snape stepped out of the freezing water and fell upon the rocky surface of the tunnel. He was trying to suck in enough breath to cast a Warming charm, when someone else did it for him. Snape looked up and glared at the twinkling blue eyes of Albus Dumbledore.
"You made very good time, my friend." The Headmaster smiled.
"Your instructions were quite explicit, even if your explanation was less detailed." Snape frowned.
"I did not want the reasons for this expedition to be discovered." Dumbledore said, turning back to the wall he'd been examining.
"What is this about?" Snape demanded standing up and watching the wizard.
"You remember our conversation of a month ago?"
"Yes, I recall, but I don't see how…" Snape stopped suddenly and his eyes grew wide. "You found one?"
"Yes. Shortly after that conversation. In an old shack outside Little Hangelton. I believe that a second one lies behind this wall. Unless I am mistaken, I shall need your help in retrieving it."
"What do you need from me?"
"At this moment, nothing. Interesting."
"What is it?"
"This entrance requires an offering…of blood. Very crude"
"The Dark Lord was never one for niceties in his spell work." Snape cracked. Dumbledore turned to stare at the Potions master over his glasses.
"I do believe that is the first attempt at humor I've ever heard from you. Not bad for your first try." Dumbledore chuckled lightly. Snape merely frowned.
Dumbledore took a small silver knife and slipped the blade across his palm, and spattered blood onto the wall, which crumbled into fine dust, allowing the two men to pass into the chamber within. Once inside, the dust reformed into a solid wall of rock.
They were inside a tremendous cavern, with a large lake. In the center of the lake sat a tiny island, with a silver pedestal, glowing brightly.
"I think that there shall be something preventing us from going together." Dumbledore said, pointing to a rickety looking boat, chained to a boulder near them.
"Indeed." Snape said, sniffing at the air around him. There was an odor of something foul. "There will be anti-Apparation wards, as well."
"Yes. I shall ask you to take the craft, I will use other means." Dumbledore smiled, and vanished. Snape looked to the island, where the Headmaster waved. Snape's lip curled wryly.
"I hope one day to have half his damn talent." Snape sneered as he entered the boat. It began moving of it's own volition, and Snape held his lit wand high about him. As the little boat began it's journey, Snape peered into the inky water, and saw something that made his stomach turn. Ghostly white bodies floated in and out of view under the dark water.
"Inferi." He said coldly. When the boat reached the little island, Snape stepped out and joined the Headmaster, who was peering into the silver basin set atop the gleaming pedestal. It was filled with a translucent blue liquid, which covered an old-looking locket.
"Is that it?" Snape asked oddly distressed.
"I do believe it is. I have tried to get rid of the liquid, but it refuses to go away. It is my opinion that it must be drunk."
"I take it you plan on consuming it, then?" Snape said.
"I do indeed. I would ask that you make sure that no matter what, I finish it all."
"No." Snape said quickly.
"No. I will not allow you to drink that. I will do it."
"Severus, now is not the time for debates. I will…"
"No, you won't." Snape snapped. "Have you told Potter everything yet? Does he even know you're here now? What about his training? You have much you still need to accomplish, Albus. If this kills you, what is to become of your responsibilities?"
"Severus, I appreciate your concerns but I do not believe that this potion is meant to kill, but more to incapacitate. It is why you are here."
"No." Snape said crossing his arms. "I will be the one to drink it, or no one shall. As you said, you need me. Who else can you trust on this?"
"There are others." Dumbledore began.
"Who, Albus? Would you ask Potter to force you to drink this, potentially killing you? Could you ask that of the boy? No, you ask me. Why? Because I have given death to others? Because I am already tainted by my deeds? I will not give in to this, Dumbledore. I will take the potion."
Dumbledore shook his head sadly. "Severus, I can not ask you to do this."
"You're not asking me. I'm telling you, I shall drink it, and then you will get me out of here. This is how it's to be."
"Very well." Dumbledore conceded. His eyes dimmed a bit as he watched the Potions master step closer to the basin, conjuring a large stone goblet. Snape dipped the goblet in, filling it as much as he could and looked to Dumbledore, who could only watch in anticipation.
Severus raised the goblet to his lips, and took the first sip, feeling the seemingly water like fluid flow down his throat thickly. He titled the goblet farther, swallowing every last drop. He waited for a moment, waiting for the poison to kill him, but nothing happened. Severus looked at Dumbledore, and then his vision went black.
Severus saw things he'd locked away in the deepest recesses of his mind. Things that haunted his worst nightmares, and scared his very soul. Things he had done. Atrocities he had committed. Every vile, despicable deed he had ever carried out came to the forefront of his mind, and was amplified. The agony the memories caused was unbearable. The faces of those he'd killed in his service to Voldemort. The lives he'd destroyed. And her face. Her beautiful face always watching, always judging, always choosing another to receive her love.
For the first time in his life, Severus Snape begged for death.