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For love and Honor
Chapter Seventeen: The Blackmailing Of Cornelius Fudge
Daily Prophet; 30th of July, 1996
FUDGE PUTS FOOT DOWN OVER POTTER/LUPIN DISAPPEARANCE
In a fiery retort to Albus Dumbledore's claim that Hermione Granger kidnapped long-standing Order of the Phoenix member Remus Lupin after masquerading as Harry Potter in Diagon Alley three days ago, Cornelius Fudge has dismissed the charge as ludicrous. 'Dumbledore has finally lost his marbles, if anyone could believe a sixteen year old girl under the sway of Polyjuice Potion had the capabilities to capture a powerful wizard in broad daylight they are slightly deranged. Hermione Granger did not kidnap Remus Lupin or Harry Potter.'
Questions were raised over whether Lupin's disappearance was connected to that of Harry Potter after reports flooded in that Lupin chased Potter down a side alley three days ago and subsequently disappeared. Lupin, the only remaining adult that lives from James Potter's tight knit group of friends from school, became close with Harry after a one year stint as a Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher at Hogwarts two years ago. When questioned about Dumbledore's theory, other members of the Order of the Phoenix refused to comment on the likelihood of Hermione Granger's involvement.
Daily Prophet; 31st of July, 1996
'BOY WHO LIVED ALIVE AND WELL ON SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY' SAYS FUDGE
In a shock announcement late yesterday afternoon, Minister Cornelius Fudge stated that he had been in contact with Harry Potter and that the boy was indeed alive and well. The announcement came after growing fears that the boy would not live to see his sixteenth birthday, which falls today. Fudge commented further that he did not know where Harry was currently staying, but that he was in good hands, and enjoying his time away from the spotlight.
Cornelius sighed wearily as he laid the front page of the Prophet out on his desk, rubbing his temples soothingly. Lying to the Prophet was something he was attuned to doing by now, something he did with relative ease, yet this time was different. Telling the world that the Boy Who Lived was alive and well when he did not know or believe it was something that ate at his conscience. The only reason he had to believe that this was the truth was the word of a mysterious stranger who had made himself known several nights ago. A mysterious stranger who threatened his entire career if he did not obey his commands. A cloaked man who had made it his business to blackmail the minister.
It had all begun late one night four days ago when Cornelius had been sitting in his office by the fireplace, stretched out in his armchair. He had had a fiercely busy day fielding questions from the press and general public and refusing to answer them. He was exhausted, and deeply troubled. Everyone was hyped up over the Potter disappearance and the girl Dumbledore insisted had taken him. Even worse, everyone was pointing the finger at him and wondering why he hadn't done more to personally find the boy himself. Well, he had just authorized the use of 20 Aurors to assist Dumbledore in his inquiries, and he was hoping that would get the public off his back. Just when he thought things were finally going according to plan, the fire roared up and an unusual colored owl shot out of the flames.
It came so swiftly that Cornelius ducked in alarm as it swooped over his head and landed on his desk. When he finally chanced a weary glance up he saw the bird stick out its leg towards him with an impatient thrust. With trembling hands, Cornelius removed the scroll from the bird's leg, which took off so quickly it spooked him again. After several moments he unrolled the parchment to read the following message which made his blood run cold;
'Meet me in room number 13 of the Leaky Cauldron at Midnight tonight, or I will disclose some very interesting information to the Daily Prophet pertaining to you stealing money from the Ministry and accepting bribes. Come alone. Do not alert the authorities or you will be exposed.'
Now Cornelius was a career man and being so, took this threat even more seriously than he would take a threat on his life. He did not know who had sent him the owl, or how they had obtained this knowledge of his doings, but he did have the sense to realize he needed to take this seriously. Thus he stole away in the middle of the night to the leaky cauldron, leaving his wife snoring loudly in the dark, undisturbed. The air had been crisp that night, it bit at his face viciously as he stood outside the Leaky Cauldron, deciding whether he dare enter or not. At last his thirst for the power he had, the power that he wanted to keep, got the better of him, and he pushed the creaky door open to find the Cauldron almost deserted.
Tom had looked up from his endless glass cleaning to nod at the minister with a knowing grin. Truth be told, this had not been the first late night visit to the Cauldron that his wife did not know about, the only difference this time, was that he was meeting someone who threatened his career, not someone who threatened his marriage. Suddenly he found himself wondering whether his blackmailer also knew intimate details about his "night wanderings" as well. He returned the smile weakly and turned to make his way up the staircase to the many rooms the Cauldron held.
Cornelius stood outside of room number 13 for a very long time, merely wondering whether his career meant so much to him that he would meet the demands of the blackmailer.
"Are you going to stand out there all night, Minister? Or are we going to have our little chat?" A disembodied voice called through the door.
Cornelius paled, gulped, then placed a pudgy, shaky hand on the brass door knob and turned ever so slowly. He let the door fall open and remained on the threshold. A man sat in front of the fireplace in a large armchair, his back to the doorway so that he could only see the top of the man's hood. The man appeared dangerously calm; something which only made Cornelius more fearful as he scarcely dared breath. The orange glow from the fire bounced the blackmailers shadow across every wall in the room. Cornelius whimpered quietly.
"Don't be shy, Cornelius." The man spoke again with a hint of enjoyment in his voice, "We have much to talk about. Come in, come in."
Cornelius cleared his throat, puffing himself up importantly as he stepped bravely across the threshold, closing the door behind him. "Now see here. If you think you can manipulate me into -"
"Manipulate you into what, Cornelius?" the man asked curiously. "I don't need to manipulate you. With the evidence I have stacked up against you, you will be going out of your way to meet my needs, just to keep your job."
Fudge huffed in disbelief several times before replying stubbornly, "So you say!"
The man chuckled to himself quietly. "Ah yes, where to begin? Should I start with your business affairs, or your extra marital affairs? How about business? Ah yes, the money you shifted around from the Orphaned Witches and Wizards fund for your own personal use?"
The minister gulped and paled significantly. "What do you want?"
"Simple really." The man replied leaning back in his chair. "I want you to remove your support from Dumbledore's crusade against Hermione Granger. Then, I want you to stop looking for Harry Potter."
"Preposterous!" Fudge cried in outrage. "What have you done with the boy?"
"The 'boy', is fine. He doesn't want to be found at present, and really, this idea that Hermione Granger had the gall to kidnap and kill him is ridiculous. Come now Minister, you don't truly believe that a 16 year old girl could commit such a heinous crime, do you?" the man asked silkily.
"Dumbledore says-" Fudge began in protest.
"Dumbledore this, and Dumbledore that." the man replied in a bored tone. "Tell me, Cornelius, do you ever think for yourself? Or does Dumbledore do all your thinking for you? If that is the case, the wizarding world is in a whole lot of trouble. You think I have dirt on you, Fudge, you're a saint compared to good old Dumbledore."
"Who are you?" Cornelius stammered shakily.
"Me?" the man confirmed with a hollow laugh. "I'm nothing more than a ghost."
"Where is Harry Potter? If you've hurt him I'll - I'll -"
"-Stutter me to death?" The man asked coolly. "Really Cornelius, you aren't very intimidating. But you needn't worry. Harry is not hurt, he is quite happy I assure you, you will see him again soon enough. The last thing I would ever do is hurt Harry Potter."
"If you're working for Voldemort -"
"Voldemort?" The man laughed. "I want Voldemort destroyed just as much as you do. Harry is safe, I give you my word."
"The word of a ghost?" Fudge asked skeptically.
"The word of a ghost." The man repeated with a sly grin.
Cornelius let out a troubled sigh of defeat. "What do you need me to do?"
"You can start by publicly revoking any statements you've made about Hermione Granger's guilt. Publicly remove all Aurors from the Potter case and shun Dumbledore's crusade against Hermione. Tell the wizarding world that Harry is alive and well, that he is enjoying his time out of the spot light. He will show himself when he is ready. You must withdraw all support of Dumbledore's actions, and inform him he must stop looking for Harry. You cannot tell him why." The man replied as he stretched his hands out to the fire, back still turned to the minister.
"Anything else?" Fudge asked testily.
"I will be visiting you often, Cornelius, I think that will be enough for you to get started on." the man answered cheerfully.
"And what if Dumbledore doesn't obey my orders?" Fudge asked fearfully.
"Make sure he does, or your wife might accidentally run into Bertha. You remember Bertha don't you, Cornelius? Tall, leggy thing, with enormously large -"
"Alright, alright!" Fudge said shakily. "I'll try."
"Succeed, Cornelius, there is no room for failure."
"What if he doesn't believe me? What if he's suspicious?" Fudge asked, panicking.
"Avoid meeting with him in person as much as possible. Do not crack under the pressure. There is a lot riding on this Minister; your career, your family…"
"How do you sleep at night?" Fudge spat angrily.
"Much better than I used too." The blackmailer replied honestly. "You see, Dumbledore stole something from me, long ago, and now it has returned to me, by an uncanny twist of fate."
"You speak of Dumbledore as if he were the Dark Lord himself." Fudge noted.
"If you were aware of half the things Albus Dumbledore has done, you would also." the man replied. "I will contact you again in three days time. Take care of everything I have asked you too, I will have more for you to do when we meet again. Don't disappoint me Cornelius."
"R- right." Fudge replied as strongly as he could. "But -"
Before Cornelius could get out his question there was a loud crack, and all at once he was the only one left in the room. Feeling slightly faint, Cornelius walked around to the fireplace and looked at the vacant chair where the blackmailer had been sitting. He dumped himself down in it unceremoniously and put his head in his hands. This was becoming all too much for him to bare. The public would hate him for abandoning the Potter hunt, but if he didn't - well, it didn't bare thinking about. It was in that moment that Fudge resolved himself to do what he had to do to keep his job, and his dignity. He would allow himself to become a puppet to a faceless puppeteer.
Harry and Hermione's announcement came as little surprise to most of the residents of the Potter mansion, except for maybe Remus and Anna. Anna, because she was determined to believe that Hermione would die a spinster that left her fortune to her library, and Remus, because he had only just become aware of the fact that they were in love, and having a child together. Despite this the previous night had been spent celebrating into the early hours of the morning.
It was Hermione who rose first the next morning; Harry's birthday, and headed down to the kitchen. As she hit the bottom of the staircase she noticed that the door to Lily's office was slightly ajar and a strip of light shone from within. Curious, she moved her way into the office and down the staircase, only to find that Lily had not slept at all. In fact she was so absorbed in her work that she did not even hear Hermione come up behind her and peer over her shoulder.
"How're they coming?" She asked, making Lily jump.
"Hermione! You scared me, I didn't hear you." Lily exclaimed as she turned to face her, "Not very good, I'm afraid."
"I'm sorry Mrs. Potter; I didn't mean to startle you. What's wrong with them?" She asked coming in to take a closer look.
"The appearance charms are overriding the vision charms. No matter what I do I can't seem to make them work. I've tried removing some of the extra features I cast on them, but that doesn't work either. I've tried putting weaker appearance charms on but it still overrides. I don't know what to do, he'll be awake soon and I-"
"Mrs. Potter?" Hermione said quietly. "Harry isn't going to care about how they appear. What you've done is a miracle; he'll be able to see again, something that he thought he might never do again. You've given him his sight back, Mrs. Potter, that's far more important than what they look like."
Lily sighed quietly. "I guess you're right. I just really wanted these to be perfect. He's my son-"
"You have nothing to make up for, Mrs. Potter. What happened to you, James and Harry was not your fault. Only one person can accept responsibility for that, Harry doesn't blame you or James." Hermione said softly.
"Thank you, Hermione." Lily said with a small smile. "I guess I hope he likes silver."
"He will." She said with a warm smile. "I was going to make him breakfast while he's still sleeping, want to help me out?"
"Sure." Lily smiled. "That's a nice idea."
"That's why I need your help. I want it to be special, and I'm not so good with presentation. It'll be the first meal he's seen in a long time, thanks to you." Hermione grinned.
Lily laughed. "Well I didn't think about it like that. I suppose it will be the first time he's seen me and James that he can remember, as well." she added with a frown. "I better do something with my hair."
Hermione laughed quietly as they reached the kitchen. "You're his mother there's no need for you to be nervous."
"Yes there is, I want my son's first impression of me to be a good one." Lily said perfectly seriously as she pulled out a large pan.
Hermione smiled removing the eggs and bacon from the fridge. "I can help you if you like."
"Thank you Hermione." Lily said with a small smile as she pulled out her wand to bewitch the pots.
Meanwhile, somewhere far above their heads, Remus' nose began switching at the wafting smell of cooking bacon that was floating up the stairs. His eyelids flew open swiftly as he rolled out of bed, feet landing soundlessly on the floor. He moved to the left wall of his room, scrunched up his knuckles and began knocking a series of rhythms on its surface. He finished his first round of knocking and waited, listening carefully, but after nothing returned but silence, he repeated the knocking.
On the other side of the wall James woke up groggily to a thumping noise on his wall. It took him several minutes to get his bearings, and then he listened carefully to the knocks. With a sudden realization he laughed out loud and crawled over to the wall, and began to knock a complicated pattern back. Upon completing his code he sat back and waited, listening carefully. There was a dramatic pause before a rush of knocks came quickly, causing James to smirk. His smirk soon turned to a look of shock, however, when his bedroom door flew open and he saw Harry standing there.
"You know, I can smell the bacon too, and while I agree that stealing the whole pan and devouring it before anyone else could get a look in would be worth the lengthy beatings my mother would deal out, would you mind keeping your knocks down? Some of us have had their magical cores ripped out and are trying to focus our magic. I find the incessant tapping very distracting." He said calmly.
"How in the name of Merlin did you figure out our code?" James asked incredulously as Remus came up behind Harry looking disheveled. "We've been using that code since our Hogwarts days."
Harry sighed in a bored manner. "It's one step away from Morse code dad; it wasn't that hard to figure out."
"What the hell is Morse code?" James asked, slightly perplexed. "Happy Birthday by the way."
Harry would have rolled his eyes. "It's a muggle thing, and thanks."
"Happy Birthday, Harry." Remus said with a grin.
"Thanks Mooney." Harry replied with a grin.
"How is your magic coming?" James inquired cautiously.
"Fairly well. I still need to exercise more control, but I am finding it much easier to maintain my concentration." Harry replied. "I'm getting better every day."
"That's great son." James answered with a grin as he got up and patted him on the shoulder. "You'll be ready in no time."
"I hope so," Harry replied quietly with a frown, "We can't hide out here forever."
James nodded in agreement as Remus' stomach growled.
"Can we go eat now? Please?" Remus begged desperately, giving James his world renowned puppy dog eyes, making him laugh.
"Hungry Harry?" he asked.
"Starving. Show me the way." Harry replied eagerly.
James and Remus lead Harry slowly down the staircase, guiding him around the corner and through the kitchen door, only to be met by shrieks. James, Remus and Harry all startled and yelled in unison; "What?"
"You're supposed to be still sleeping, that's what!" Lily said in exasperation.
"Pinch me Remus." James said in disbelief.
"Don't have to ask me twice." Remus said with a grin as he pinched him as hard as he could on the upper arm.
"Ow! A-ha! So it isn't a dream. She just told me I should still be in bed, right?"
"That she did." Harry replied with a raised eyebrow.
"So why is it that every other morning it's; 'get out of bed you lazy twat?" He asked Lily defiantly.
"Because you'd never get out otherwise!" Lily retorted.
"Oh," James said with an affronted sniff. "I see how it is…"
"Happy Birthday Sweetheart." Lily said with a warm smile, scowling at James swiftly as she edged him out of the way to hug her son.
"Thanks Mum." Harry said in an embarrassed voice.
"We were going to give you breakfast in bed, but it looks like we weren't quick enough." She said apologetically.
"That's ok Mum, it smells delicious." Harry said honestly, his stomach growling maniacally.
"That's Hermione's doing, not mine." Lily said with a glance to Hermione who was standing behind her.
Lily moved out of the way so that Hermione could come forward and hug him. She kissed him softly as they embraced and whispered him a happy birthday, which made his skin flush pink as he was aware of his parents watching them.
"It smells great Hermione, thanks." Harry said softly.
"It's nothing special." She said modestly. "But before we eat your Mum has a present for you."
"Oh Mum you didn't have to-" Harry began to protest.
"-I wanted too." She said stiffly handing him a small wooden box. "You've missed out on far too many birthday presents already, you won't miss anymore."
Harry nodded with a small smile, as he felt the smooth edges of the box under his fingers. "What is it?"
"You'll see." She said gently. "I may have to put them in for you -"
"Alright?" Harry said uneasily.
Lily laughed. "It won't hurt, come here." She said as she pulled him under the light, taking the box from his hands and opening it.
Harry heard the snap of the box being opened, then felt his mother's fingers gently pry open his left eyelid. He flinched awkwardly and Lily released him quickly.
"I'm sorry did that hurt?"
"No -" Harry replied, "I just wasn't expecting it, that's all. Mum did you-"
"Well here, hold still for me, ok?" She cut him off with her reply as she pried his eyelid apart once more.
"Ok." He mumbled softly, trying not to move.
An odd cooling sensation came over his left eye as Lily slotted something in over his damaged eyeball. It felt almost liquid, and it spread itself out over the entire eye he could feel the coolness spread, almost trickle down the nerves that attached the eye to his brain as though it were repairing them. It wasn't a painful feeling, more pleasant, and calming. As Lily released his eyelids she put Harry's own hand over his left eye and told him to hold it shut. He obeyed as she moved to his right eye. Again the cooling sensation flooded over his eye and traveled through his nerves and muscles. Harry decided it was the oddest feeling he had ever experienced. After a few minutes the strange sensation subsided, and Lily told him to take his hands away and open his eyes.
Harry removed his hands almost reluctantly from his eyes, fearing that nothing would happen. His hands fell to his sides weightlessly, but his eyes remained closed, all his hope, all his prayers were about to come to a climax. He could hear the others all telling him to open his eyes. Their voices all seemed distant, almost like echoes from another world. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and with one final burst of hope, he flung them open…
The colors were blinding. And he brought his hands up to shield his eyes he concluded that being released from his cell of darkness was a lot harder than being banished too it. His eyes burned and watered madly as he tried to focus on his surroundings, slowly lowering his hands cautiously. The first thing he saw was Hermione. Her image came swimming into view like a beautiful dream that he never wanted to fade away. She was even more beautiful than he remembered her being the last time he saw her.
Next to Hermione he saw Remus standing there, looking as ragged and drawn as ever, but smiling and ecstatically happy none the less. His eyes moved across to James. His father, who look just exactly like he did in the photo album he had locked away in his trunk. He had aged, most definitely, he looked exhausted, probably from worrying about him, but he was the most pleasant sight Harry had ever seen. For years he had dreamed of walking into a room one day and finding his mother and father standing in front of him, as real as himself, and now, at last, it was true. He could see that tears were stinging his father's eyes as he flicked across once more to see his mother.
Lily was still as beautiful as she was in the pictures of her wedding day, she tearful smile made Harry well up inside with warmth. He searched her face, and there they were - her emerald green eyes, something she had passed down to Harry. Looking at her now he could see why everyone had always commented on them, they were her eyes to a tee. As he watched her he noticed she looked upset.
"What is it mum?" he asked in concern.
"There's a few things you need to know Harry-"
"Like what?" He asked, unable to stop taking her in. "They feel perfect, I can see even better than I could before, and I don't have to wear my glasses."
"Oh Harry!" She said rushing forward and engulfing him in a tight hug, her eyes welling with tears.
Harry laughed hugging her back. "It's ok mum, don't cry."
"But Harry," She said quietly. "They aren't exactly what I'd hoped they would be."
"What do you mean?" he inquired, "I can see, Mum, that's all that matters."
"Yes but, the appearance charms didn't work." She replied with a sigh.
"So they don't look like my eyes did?" Harry asked, trying to understand what she was upset about.
"No," She replied shaking her head. "I'm sorry Harry; the only way they would work was if they were left in their original state. They're solid silver, Harry."
Harry walked over to the full length mirror that stood in the living room and gazed at his reflection. His eyes were indeed now completely metallic silver. It looked odd at first, like a shiny plate where his iris should be, but as he looked closer, he realized that they didn't look half bad at all. The silver suited his complexion well, and he liked the way his hair partially covered them in soft wisps. In fact, he decided that they gave him an intimidating look, an edge even. Harry could not help but smile when he pictured Dumbledore's look of fear upon staring into Harry's new eyes for the first time.
"They're perfect, Mum." He said softly, giving her a warm smile a he walked back to hug her, glad to feel that she was relieved. "I love them."
"I'm so glad." Lily said quietly.
"Personally I think they look cool." Remus said voicing his opinion. "Just don't touch me with them ok?"
Harry grinned. "Would I do such a thing?"
Remus snorted. "You talked your father into blackmailing the Minister of Magic, you're capable of anything."
"Do they look ok?" He asked self consciously.
"Very intimidating." James nodded with approval. "Perfect for your face off with Dumbledore and Voldemort."
Lily scowled at him. "Stop talking shop."
"Yes dear." James rolled his eyes. "I like them Harry. Your mother did a good job."
"Thanks Dad." Harry replied. "I might have to invest in some sunglasses for street wear though."
"That can be arranged." James said with a grin just as Mr. and Mrs. Granger and their eldest daughter entered the room.
"Good morning." Harry said nodding to them with a broad smile.
All three Grangers stopped and did a double take at the sight of him. When they at last realized that Lily had obviously completed her contacts for Harry, and that he could indeed see them, they laughed in amazement and came over to congratulate the boy. Harry shook Mr. Granger's hand for the first time, looking him directly in the eyes, and all the man's fears melted away. Harry would take care of his youngest daughter, and they would be happy. Hermione snuck up behind Harry and gave him a quick hug before rushing off to help Lily set the table for breakfast. To Harry, food had never smelt so sweet, the day had never been so vibrant, and he had never been so happy.
Harry looked around again, taking in the surroundings of his parent's house. Lily ushered him into a chair at the kitchen table and began to set the food in the middle. Remus and James licked their lips ravenously and seated themselves side by side opposite Harry. Hermione seated herself next to Harry, and Anna sat next to Hermione, throwing them silly grins. Jonathan sat next to James and kicked Anna's foot under the table, causing her to yelp and scowl at her father, but ultimately leave the two love birds alone. Julia sat next to Jonathan at the end of the table and smiled as she watched Hermione squeeze Harry's hand. Lily sat at the end of the table closest to Harry after she finished setting up the table and grinned at the sight of her husband and Remus.
"Some things never change." She said to Harry under her breath.
"They're like two little kids." Harry remarked with a grin, watching them drooling over the bacon they were now sword fighting with.
"You can imagine how it was when Sirius-" Lily broke off solemnly.
The table fell into a mournful silence, as they remembered the man who should rightfully be seated between James and Remus, laughing and pulling pranks with the rest of them. Harry focused on his hands, desperate not to betray his feelings. Sirius should be here. That was all that played over in Harry's mind, yet somehow he knew he was watching over them, from somewhere far above. Albus Dumbledore would pay for this; he would pay for robbing Harry and his family of so many precious memories, and of such a precious person.