A Bad Week at the Wizengamot
A/N: What would have happened if Harry had been convicted by the Wizengamot after defending himself from dementors before his fifth year at Hogwarts? Humorous!
"…and this august body finds you, Harry Potter, guilty of misuse of underage magic. We expel you from Hogwarts and order your wand snapped. May you live a miserable life among the Muggles."
The Auror who was holding Harry's wand handed it to Cornelius Fudge. The small, plump wizard looked singularly pleased with himself as he'd just delivered the Wizengamot's 'justice.' With a look of glee, he snapped Harry's wand into two pieces. Many of the elderly witches and wizards were peering to the action in front of them. It wasn't every day a famous wand got snapped.
But instead of anger or tears or any strong negative emotion, Harry Potter stood up, nodded to his former Headmaster – who was frozen in his overstuffed chair and trying to calculate the damage this caused – and his former babysitter, Mrs. Figg, and then addressed the wizarding court.
"Sir, I have already lived a fairly miserable life among the muggles I'm related to. However, I would like to thank all of you for showing your true colors in this challenging situation. I realize how difficult it is to ignore the bribes you've all obviously accepted.
"I understand the fear mongering that Fudge is doing; his attempts at discrediting me so he doesn't have to think about Voldemort. The money that Lucius Malfoy is sprinkling around to get everyone to stop thinking. You've won this round.
"You've cleared up a number of problems for me – and created more than you can imagine for yourselves. I would like everyone here to know that I will be leaving Britain forever. With all the good and bad that that entails.
"I wish you well dealing with the truth – Voldemort has returned and all of you who are not Death Eaters already are on his target list as he tries to assume control of this country. Best of luck. Practice up your shielding spells...and remember to duck if you see green light coming your way."
With that, to the dull roar of indignant people, Harry walked out of the courtroom. Seven minutes later, he left Britain altogether.
But the Wizengamot wasn't yet released from its duty. Albus Dumbledore, failed counsel for Harry Potter, had more than a few more words to share with his former colleagues.
"Well, I can see that the average intelligence level has gone downhill since you forced me out, Cornelius and Dolores…"
"Now see here, Albus," the Minister for Magic started to lecture. "The law is the law…"
"No one charged with misuse of underage magic has been tried by the full Wizengamot… Not ever, Cornelius. The world will see this as the political torment of a young boy by a corrupt administration – one who denies the problems that every other country sees."
"That's foolish, Dumbledore," Dolores Umbridge said. "Who will ever know what happened here? I'm not going to talk about it? Are you?" She tried to add a bit of menace to her girly, grating voice.
"The person who is going to share his memory of what happened here just walked out of this building. And you'll never get your paws on him again. But, my dear deluded former colleagues, he will no longer feel contrained to be merciful. I've held him off since you engineered this travesty of justice. But he's been planning for the worst – what exactly, I don't know. But your idiocy will cost you more than you know."
"What threats are these? Have you finally cracked, old man?" Fudge was looking rather furious by now.
"Because you fools tried him as an adult, and subjected him to an adult's punishment, he's now legally and magically an adult…"
"So what," Dolores said. "He's just an undereducated, self-inflated child."
Dumbledore closed his eyes for a moment. "Madam, he's more Slytherin than anyone since Salazar himself. I hope you each enjoy what comes next. I expect this to hurt…a lot."
Cornelius was enjoying a rather peaceful Monday morning – especially since the Potter boy had been thoroughly discredited and then announced his own exile. Well, it was a peaceful morning until the head of his Goblin Relations office stormed inside Cornelius' office, interrupting his mid-morning tea.
"Big trouble, big…" Dirk Cresswell looked flushed, out of breath, and ready to cry.
Cornelius set down his cup. Dirk had always been a bit excitable this way. Pity if one of the chief goblins had a hang nail or some such nonsense. That's all the more severe it ever was with those surly little beasts.
"The goblins just lost ten percent of their assets and they're blaming you. More than one of them wants to roast you on an open flame and serve you up at a goblin feast…"
Cornelius frowned. How had he lost the goblins anything?
"Explain. Clearly, simply. You know I don't have a head for details or complicated explanations."
Dirk sighed and tried to calm himself down. "You forced Harry Potter to leave Britain. Well, he took his assets with him."
Cornelius considered this statement for more than a minute before he understood what his underling was hinting at. Then he began spluttering. "Ten percent of Gringotts? Belong to the Potters? Ridiculous. I'd have known a thing like that. I'd have made the boy an important campaign contributor if that were true…"
"It's true… They were wealthy enough when Harold Potter died, but then neither James nor Harry could do anything with the assets. So the goblins managed it… Twenty-eight percent returns per year, one of them bragged. The fortune increased by 1300 percent in twenty years… All their work, well compensated, but taken away from them. Because of you, they say…"
"Merlin." Fudge was sweating. How could he not have recognized someone that wealthy? That was more than the Malfoys, Notts, Greengrasses, and the Parkinsons combined. "Oh Merlin."
"Stop thinking of your campaigns, Cornelius. The goblins are out for blood. They've got copies of every treaty out looking for loopholes. They're going to make you pay…"
Cornelius began jotting notes on scrap paper. Everything he knew about goblins...which wasn't much. When he finally stopped 'thinking' he realized that his underling was making too much of the situation. The Minister waved his hand in a dismissive manner. "I think not, Dirk. They've rattled their chains every few years but nothing has ever come of it, save for dire threats."
Cresswell shook his head, disagreeing. "They've never lost a client this important before. Based on what I gleaned, Potter is arranging for the gnomes in Switzerland to take control of his asset management. And you know how goblins feel about gnomes…"
Actually, Cornelius didn't have the slightest clue. That was why he had people like Dirk around.
"Give them a week. They'll calm down again."
Dirk Cresswell just opened and closed his mouth a few times in utter amazement. Could someone be that stupid? It was obvious that Cornelius was no kind of scholar, but how could he be reading a political situation so poorly?
"It's your head they're looking for, Cornelius. Take the warning or not…"
His afternoon was worse. His office was flooded with Wizengamot members shouting about how their home mortgages were being called in – within a week's time. The goblins were apparently under quite the financial strain to be recalling so many mortgages at the same time.
The strange thing that Cornelius didn't notice was that only Wizengamot members complained about their mortgages being called in.
He didn't give it much of a thought once he got home that evening. Harry Potter was neutralized. These blasted stories about a resurrected Dark Lord would dissipate like a horrible odor now.
Cornelius disrobed and relaxed in the large pool that came attached to the Ministerial House, the residence of the Minister of Magic. It really was the best perk of office, all things considered. A full staff of elves, a food budget that didn't come out of Cornelius' own pocket, and more rooms than he knew what to do with. Plus it was a short walk to the Ministry – should he ever deign to walk – and in a very nice part of London.
Cornelius lay on his back and floated around the massive pool. Mrs. Fudge was off seeing relatives – which, of course, was Cornelius' explanation for why she was locked away inside a muggle sanitarium. It was much easier to be a dutiful husband when one's wife wasn't around much at all. Or never, as the case may be.
Tuesday would have been a good day...until that blasted meeting. Instead of a perfectly ordinary day slowly wandering past, most distressing news reached Cornelius' ears early in the morning as he was wrapping up with the Ambassador from Bulgaria.
It was the repugnant man's parting shot, actually, that ruined Cornelius' day. "I don't suppose you're too upset about your predecessor's disgrace, then, are you, Minister?"
Cornelius blinked a few times. "Excuse me?"
"Oh, an inquiry was held in France this morning over one of the people arrested and imprisoned during Minister Bagnold's term in office."
What an odd thing to say. The French were only concerned with wine and goat cheese...or enslaving wild veela. "Why would the French give one baguette about what we do here?"
"Well, it was necessary to grant someone citizenship, French citizenship…"
Cornelius rolled his eyes. He'd play along, though. "Whose?"
"Why, Sirius Black, of course…"
"Sirius Black is in France?" Fudge slammed his magical intercom. "Roselle? Maggie? Blast! Secretary, get me the French on a secure Floo connection. I'll get them to capture Sirius Black and extradite him back…"
The Ambassador just smiled. "I think you misunderstand, Minister. They held a trial for him in France because he never received one here in Britain before he was sent away. My sources tell me that they viewed Pensieve evidence stretching back to the 1981 Potter Massacre as well as more recent events. It appears that one Peter Pettigrew, who you all believe dead, was guilty. Even worse, he's still alive and was the servant partially responsible for resurrecting your resident Dark Lord…"
"Oh, yes, it was quite the trial. Harry Potter showed his memory of the resurrection…"
Cornelius had a sinking feeling. Where Potter was trouble followed. "What? Why was Potter in France? And defending Sirius Black? And why did the French go along with it? Why? Why would they do that?"
"Well, it was part of the deal Potter struck to become a French citizen, I believe."
The Bulgarian Ambassador just smiled. "Oh, yes, it was quite the bidding war. He's accepted French, German, Bulgarian, American, Chinese, Japanese, Peruvian, and Egyptian citizenship, from what I hear. Don't know if he's renounced his British heritage yet. Haven't heard where he'll be going back to school – or maybe he'll take tutors…"
"But…he. He was expelled from Hogwarts. He can't go to school… He doesn't have a wand."
The Ambassador smiled his most patient smile, as if he were talking to a small child. "Surely you don't think your provincial little school is the only one in the world. Or that no other country manufactures wands? Tut, tut, Minister. How many potions masters has England produced in the last decade? Three. How many has Peru created? Forty-eight. And the Peruvian test is much more challenging than the English version. Really, Minister, you're not very well up to date on educational matters and methods, I think. I've heard about your plan to place Dolores at Hogwarts. In real schools, teachers are required to demonstrate their qualifications in the subjects they teach. Political connections are irrelevant."
Cornelius was fuming now. His Ministry had just suffered a major publicity disaster; and he found out not from his own people, but from this damned Ambassador from a third-rate country.
Fudge thought about it all. Black proclaimed innocent. The man had spent more than a decade in Azkaban. Fudge himself had been among the first Ministry officials on the scene. He'd observed the maniacal gleam in Barty Crouch's eye. Oh Merlin; an innocent sent to prison without a trial. The reparations for that would be monumental.
But only if the government here ever admitted to it.
That was the great power of the politician. To know the truth, to fully understand it, and then to deny it to everyone at every time. 'Oh, yes, what a beautiful baby.' 'Of course we won't be raising taxes this year.' 'I'm sure your nephew would make a fine Unspeakable, ma'am, seems like quite a smart chap.'
And the rest of his joy at Harry's disgrace the day before was gone. Obviously the international community had laughed at Fudge. Cornelius frowned as he tried to think through the consequences. Harry was accepted by other countries. He could go on and on telling his lies. And now the Ambassador from Bulgaria, of all places, was mocking Hogwarts. True, their potions instructor was a gnarled piece of a worthless wizard. But, it was the principle of the matter.
English is always best. Peruvian Potions Masters be damned.
And Voldemort was dead. And so was Pettigrew. Pensieves be damned. And no one could make Fudge admit otherwise. Not when his career and the Ministry's treasury was on the line. Admitting to wrongful imprisonment would be like writing a blank check to Sirius Black.
No way. Not while Cornelius Fudge was Minister of Magic!
Wednesday was truly a date for the books. The books of torture and pain, of course. Cornelius Fudge's personal Malleus Maleficarum, the Hammer of Witches.
He felt like'd been buried alive. No worse, deprived of his daily tea and crumpets. The morning started off with a terrible revelation.
Cornelius Fudge did not have his tidy sack of galleons – his rather impressive weekly salary – sitting on his desk when he arrived.
"Bettina," he called to his secretary, "or Amelinda or whatever you're called, why haven't the goblins made the payments yet?"
The shock white face of his secretary pushed into the doorframe. In a near whisper, she explained that "the goblins have seized the Ministry's money, sir."
"Dirk Cresswell tried to floo you late last night, but you weren't answering. The goblins took the imprisoning of Sirius Black very badly, particularly once the French court proved his innocence. They said the Ministry violated a 1307 Treaty never to lie to the goblins…"
"But we didn't," Fudge spluttered.
In just a few moments, Dirk Cresswell was in the room flushing out the full explanation. "Your predecessor, Minister Bagnold, sent a request to freeze the Black family assets after Black went to Azkaban. The goblins complied and the assets sat frozen for more than a decade. However, with proof of Black's innocence spreading in the press and internationally, the goblins have that letter of Bagnold's as proof that the goblins were lied to, sir.
"Why the hell would anyone sign something so stupid?"
"The seizure letter? Former Minister Bagnold is still among the living, I think, although Barty Crouch is no longer…"
"No, that blasted treaty…"
"Oh, I guess you never stayed awake for Professor Binns' lectures on the goblin rebellions. The rebellion that lasted from 1302 to 1307 was settled with a treaty that ensured the 'good behavior' of the Ministry by forcing the Ministry to use the goblin bank as a deposit bank. And, for any lies or malfeasance, the goblins could seize the Ministry's assets. It was supposed to keep us honest, of course…"
Cornelius gritted his teeth. If there was anything he liked less than goblins it was ancient history...or dangerous treaties. "You never said – who was so stupid as to sign that?"
"Emerys Potter was Minister then, if I recall. But it was a clever move. He only moved seventy-five galleons, a tiny sort of fortune then, into the goblins' control. The rest he kept inside the Ministry's own vaults…"
"We have vaults in this building?" Cornelius would remember seeing something like that. He was sure of it.
Dirk shook his head. "No, that Ministry building had vaults, it was the building we used nearly seven hundred years ago. Several moves later and the wisdom of the ancients is forgotten, sir, because we let the goblins control all our assets. Very silly thing to do, I can say without a doubt."
"How was I supposed to know?" the Minister...err, whined. Not a very Ministerial thing, but the stress overwhelmed his sense of decorum. "I'm not a details person and was never very good with facts and history and such…"
"Really, sir, you think you'd be better versed in human nature – or goblin nature – than this. Ignorance isn't bliss; no, they scheme and plot and just when you get complacent they come around and bite you in your arse with their pointed little teeth. Not knowing the details can cost you a lot."
Fudge frowned. It had cost him his salary.
"Now, I've just been talking with our Revenue Department," Dirk said.
"We have a revenue department?" It really wasn't the Minister's day. No salary and so much new stuff to learn. "Is it staffed with purebloods, do you know? I'd hate to have the other sort handling our money..."
Dirk rolled his eyes, but held his tongue. He was the other sort, after all, even if Fudge seemed to have forgotten. "Yes, we have one. I don't know about your other question, but they said that it will take weeks to establish a new account somewhere – we're rather a laughing stock internationally right now – and even longer to end the agreements that automatically deposit tax revenue into the Gringotts account. When they were set up, we apparently aimed for long-term stability. The penalty clauses are quite nasty, I've heard. We won't have a galleon to call the Ministry's for almost a month…"
A month without his bag of gold? How would Fudge survive?
Cresswell ignored Cornelius' near fainting. He had a lot of problems to outline quickly. "We don't know if the goblins have merely seized our money – or if they've claimed it for themselves."
"They can do that?"
"Apparently." Cresswell wondered if Fudge's loving parents had also been loving siblings to each other. Most likely...
"This is a state secret, then. No one must ever know about this…"
"The goblins held a press conference at five fifteen this morning, Minister. It may even be in today's newspapers…"
"Black's innocence, sir, puts us in a bind. The French have recognized it; the goblins, too. But the Ministry hasn't said a word, yet…"
No, no. No way. Fudge had already decided that. Downplay. Deny. Delay! The three D's of political success. "Pshaw…"
"But it's all because of that Potter trial, sir. They didn't start digging out the old treaties until they lost ten percent of their assets. You've got to set things right with the goblins, sir, and that probably starts with convincing Harry Potter to come back; him and his wealth…"
Fudge frowned. "Leave the political thinking to me, Dirk, that's why I'm in this chair and you're not…"
He'd have to think up another way to repair things. Admitting the truth -- or apologizing -- were never paths to success, only to Azkaban.
Dirk smiled and stood up. "Of course, sir."
His mid-morning tea was interrupted several times – which wasn't that great a loss, as Fudge was finding it difficult to digest much of anything, given he was without his bag of gold today.
First, the French Ambassador snickered when he showed up to deliver a letter to Fudge.
Said letter was a strongly worded refusal to turn over Sirius Black to "the bunged-up system that you unfortunately refer to as justice." The letter had wonderful things to say about their "ability to deny even the most basic of sham trials by not awarding any trial at all" and the ridiculousness of a law enforcement organization headed up by a "man who was proven to have broken his own Death Eater son out of your prison system, keeping said son under the Imperius curse for more than a decade."
It concluded with an admonition that turned Fudge's frail stomach into a roiling storm. "Fix your 'system of justice' so that it is less wobbly than a broken-down wheel barrow and we might discuss judicial matters with you again, Minister, but until then, consider all treaties between Magical France and Magical Britain in suspension…"
Fudge was a rather vibrant orange-red while he bellowed out his anger. "I've never been treated so disrespectfully…"
"With all due honesty, sir, you've obviously never deserved it more."
With that, the French Ambassador left.
And just when Fudge was calming down, the Daily Prophet arrived.
Black Innocent; Never Granted British Trial; The French Cleaning Up Our Messes For Us, was one headline on a very busy page.
Harry Potter Awarded Citizenship in Eighteen Countries, Rejects Returning to Britain, was another.
Goblins Invoke Ancient Treaty to Seize Ministry Assets, was a third.
Oh, how Fudge longed to go take a long float in his pool. But, no, he had work to do. Important work. He'd fulfill his full duty by remaining in his office from nine thirty to four o'clock every working day, save holidays, and excepting his daily hour and a half allowance for lunch. Plus his two sessions of tea, midmorning and midafternoon.
He'd work today even though he hadn't received his bag of galleons. But he'd take a double-length float tonight.
His annoyance went up when he got a shirty visit from Britain's representative to the European Magical Union, one of the component organizations in the International Confederation of Warlocks.
The representative warned him, "if there's just one more screw-up, Fudge, the EMU will vote to assume the right to supervise your government, every aspect of it. They're not at all pleased that the goblins are in an uproar, that your judicial foibles are making international headlines. Even the role of Dementors at Azkaban is making the British look terrible. However, they're rather glad to have Harry Potter taking a more visible role in the world…"
"Oh, yes, he's on an ICW world tour right now investigating educational models. He's been stopping by every school of magic in the world, technically as an advisor of sorts. But I think he's trying to pick one to attend in a few weeks…"
"But what school would want someone who was expelled from Hogwarts?" As if the answer should be obvious. Howarts was British and therefore the best – the only one worthy of emulation in any respect. If it rejected a student, at the request of its parent government, the student deserved rejection from all the subservient schools.
The representative raised an eyebrow. "Apparently all of them, Cornelius. All of them."
After that boor of a man left, Cornelius tried to resuscitate his cold tea and warm jam and clotted cream. But he received a summons – he, the Minister of Magic – received a summons from the British Muggle Prime Minister.
So Fudge floo'd into the Muggle Prime Minister's office. And got a rather withering dressing down.
"I just got off the telephone with the American President. And he made some rather surprising claims about his magical citizenry growing in quality and ours declining in quality. And I've gotten other calls this morning from France, Peru, and Bulgaria of all places. Bulgaria! What the devil are you mucking up now, Fudge?"
"Well, then, I suppose you'd like to tell me why the French President's office has just sent over a proclamation announcing the innocence of one Sirius Black? Wasn't he the one you had us help you track down the summer before last year? And now the French say he's completely innocent, was framed up, of all things, and even sent to prison without a trial. WITHOUT A TRIAL! If there were no trials, Cornelius, then there would be no lawyers. You can't have a government -- or a Prime Minister -- without lawyers! They go together like a pig and his parasites. I am most upset about this, Fudge…"
So Fudge started in on a highly abbreviated explanation. He did happen to mention the name Harry Potter. And that's when things started to go very wrong.
"Potter, you say? Harold James Potter? According to another proclamation from the French President's office, he was just made Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. If he was British and this important, why didn't we knight him or something? Makes us look boorish you know, Fudge… I won't be shown up by the French, you hear."
The Prime Minister began to seethe. On television he looked quite friendly, but in person he was quite a different sort of animal if you angered him.
"I let you get away with all too much, Fudge. You just show up here whenever you like and tell me half truths and partial lies when you need to wheedle something out of me. Well, no longer. Get this Harry Potter back on his native soil and I will have the Queen knight him – no, I'll have her ennoble the young lad, even better. Or we can discuss your resignation and next career. I believe the Queen might be in need of a court jester, you see, and you rather seem to fit the bill with your general portliness and level of incompetence. We'd just need to round up a patchwork suit and some pointy shoes, I wager."
Cornelius couldn't get away fast enough. He needed a good long float...long enough to make his skin go prune-like. His asylum-condoned wife had warned him there'd be days like this...which was why he'd had her committed.
Dumbledore showed up in Fudge's office that afternoon. He would be fifty-seventh member of the Wizengamot to show up that day to complain about a lack of salary.
Fudge tried to stop him before he got started. "I know all about the goblins, Albus. I'm trying to get our account unfrozen, you see. I don't need you breathing down my neck, too. Won't help things."
Albus didn't listen. He walked right in. And Howlers for Cornelius Fudge seemed to follow the aged wizard inside, too. Because they started exploding right then. His chairs were upended. His desk was thrown back into the wall. And Fudge sat up, from his new home on the floor, a few moments later wondering what had happened.
"I've already had four dozen howlers today, Cornelius. The ones that tagged along with me were your share, apparently."
His delicate stomach couldn't take much more in the surprise department. "What nonsense is this, Dumbledore?"
"Remember when I told you it was a bad idea to try Harry Potter as an adult for your vendetta?"
A weary Cornelius just nodded.
"Well, it seems the Wizengamot's ruling throwing Potter out also ended a rather useful institution that the Potter family started up four hundred years ago, you blithering fool."
Just then an owl showed up with two steaming red envelopes. Dumbledore took one – his hand looked like it had been scorched more than once this morning – and Fudge cowered over the other. Dumbledore went first.
"HOW DARE YOU RAISE THE TUITION AT HOGWARTS BY TWO HUNDRED PERCENT, ALBUS! I STILL REMEMBER YOU AS A BOY GETTING INTO TROUBLE WITH ABERFORTH AND HIS GOATS! MY GREAT GRANDCHILDREN WILL PROBABLY NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO ATTEND YOUR SCHOOL NOW BECAUSE OF THIS! JUST WATCH OUT, A GREAT GRANDMOTHER WILL PROTECT HER CHILDREN'S CHILDREN'S CHILDREN WITH EVERY OUNCE OF STRENGTH. – MARCHBANKS"
Fudge's was similar, but even harsher. In particular because Griselda Marchbanks was on the Wizengamot and had sussed out what Fudge had been up to with the Potter boy.
Cornelius dusted the soot off after the letter exploded in indignation. "Well, Dumbledore, why did you increase tuition, then? And why am I being blamed for it?"
"Don't you listen to anything anyone says, Cornelius? You're trying to take over my school with your vicious little toad, Umbridge, and you don't know the first thing about the place. Let me tell you, then. Apparently the Potters set up a financial trust hundreds of years ago to help defray massive portions of the tuition for Hogwarts. The Potter Family Education Trust dissolved the moment you threw the last Potter out of Hogwarts, the money was released back to him. He hasn't withdrawn it yet from Gringotts, but he will. And then the goblins will come for you with all their warriors. That trust was large enough to pay forty-five percent of all the bills for Hogwarts – teachers, food, our rent on the lands, all that – which is more than triple of how much the Ministry supports us. So, that money gone, we had to raise the tuition."
Cornelius was beginning to feel nervous now. The goblins would get angrier, that could be handled. But parents feeling this kind of punch in their pocket books – every political bone in his body said that Cornelius would be paying for this for a long time to come. He would get the blame, particularly once the story behind this trust dissolving hit the newspapers.
"What do we do, Albus?"
"The trust is gone, Cornelius, because you broke its fundamental tenet. 'Every child will be treated in a fair, equitable manner, with all disciplinary issues handled by the Hogwarts Board of Governors.' You broke that magical contract with your criminal trial on a trumped up charge. Harry, even if he came back, doesn't have to reinstate it. You're going to feel the full brunt of it."
"We've got to keep it quiet, then. Quell the rumors, Albus."
The aged warlock just shook his head. "I've already had to send out the tuition increase letters after someone managed to start this as gossip going round the families. It's not gossip, of course, if it's true; and I've fully explained why in that letter, Cornelius. So, unless the Ministry can come up with another two million galleons per year for Hogwarts, the Fudge tuition increase will stand."
Cornelius had a minor seizure while Dumbledore stalked out of his office. One of the great political truths was that most citizens only cared what a government did if it impacted their money bags. And this travesty of a broken magical contract was going to ripple down into nearly every family – and certainly all of the great, powerful ones – by the end of the week. It was not a good day to be Minister.
Fudge brooded. He got none of the credit; all of the blame. If this kept up, even his house elves would be laughing at him soon.
Cornelius Fudge had a rough start to his Thursday morning, too. Of course, he hadn't slept well over night, not with all the letters and Howlers that managed to locate him at home. The vile things people could say in a letter! He hadn't heard such language since he got kicked out of that whorehouse in Turkey.
The problem on Thursday morning was that he couldn't Floo into his office for some bizarre reason. Nor into the Auror department. Nor anywhere else, not even the Atrium.
So he actually walked to work. And in the alley near the phone box, there were a great number of Ministry employees milling about. Albertus Librus, the Ministry's chief historian, was the first to come up to Fudge.
"Minister, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But, I guess I am."
Cornelius had no clue what could be wrong now. Was there anything left to break? "What now? More goblins? More magical contracts I didn't know about going kaboom?"
Albertus looked surprised. "Why, yes, a magical contract, how did you know? Perhaps you're cleverer than people give you credit for, Minister."
"Or maybe not. The founding of the Ministry goes way back to when eleven families signed a treaty among themselves twelve hundred years ago – that established the precursor to the Wizengamot. Well, it seems that every subsequent set of laws on governance kept reinforcing that original compact, 'The Treaty of the Eleven Families.' Well, the problem with that is only two of those families are still around, you see. The Whites died out five hundred years ago; the magical lines of the Turners and the Cobblers have been extinct for two hundred years or better. And then there's…"
"Yes. Yes, get on with it."
"Well, it's just down to the Potters and the Blacks. And both of those families just suspended their family's magics that support that original treaty…"
"We're locked out, sir. The magic is suspended. We don't have a government any more, well, not until some folks from the European Magical Union show up to start running things…"
"WHAT! I'm the Minister of Magic."
"There is no Ministry of Magic, sir. Nor any Wizengamot. Nor anything right now. Everything's suspended. Those original eleven families agreed to protect the country from unjust government. They were authorized in that original treaty to withdraw the support of their family's magics when the government showed itself corrupt or otherwise unfit to govern…"
Fudge ranted and raved for quite a long time, all the while checking in with the others assembled there trying to see if there was more information – meaning, positive information – available.
After an hour of trying to get into his Ministry, Fudge told everyone to go home for the day. He needed a float in his pool to calm himself. How do these things keep happening to him? It was an awful curse, Cornelius decided. Potter was involved and thus it was bad news.
He arrived back at the Ministerial House just in time to have a nice float. He'd worked up rather a fine sheen of sweat on his face with all his exertion. But the door was utterly sealed. The gardens seemed to have wards around them so he couldn't enter from the rear of the building, either. He tried opening a window – and merely got an unpleasant magical shock for his efforts.
He saw a small bronze plaque on his house. He'd noticed it before, but it had never seemed as well polished as it did today. Cornelius wandered over to the plaque and read it.
"Ministry House, loaned to the Wizengamot and Ministry of Magic in 1629 as a reward for excellent governance, from the House of Potter, Most Ancient and Noble, Servants to the Light."
Cornelius groaned. No Ministry meant no Ministerial House. No house elves! No floating in the pool!! What else could go wrong?
The answer, of course, was quite a lot.
Lord Voldemort started up a subscription to the Daily Prophet – not under his own name, of course, but rather as Peter Riddle, as a sort of sop to that vile servant Peter Pettigrew – and read the news for the entire week. He was enraged when saw that his quarry - Harry Potter - for getting that blasted prophecy out of the Ministry of Magic had left Britain.
Nothing made Lord Voldemort more upset than having fools meddle in his plans. He needed Potter here. Voldemort couldn't storm the Ministry for the prophecy and still maintain his low profile. No, he needed Potter back in Britain.
He decided to send a message of sorts, a peace offering to Potter and a warning to those fools in the Wizengamot. Potter was his! His!
Who would he plot against if there was no Potter in Britain?
The boy needed to be at Hogwarts, where he was easy to get at. He was critical to all of Voldemort's half-formed plans. In the current one, he needed to stage an elaborate, convoluted plot to get at that blasted prophecy, for which he conveniently would require the services of one Harry Potter.
Ultimate Plan #3122-B. Step one. Retrieve Potter. Step two. Retrieve prophecy. Step three. Take over the world.
In his most giving and gracious spirit, Lord Voldemort wrote up a list, after consulting "Peter Riddle's" copy of the Daily Prophet. He pointed his rather scaly finger at 'his most faithful' servant. "Wormtail, I want these twenty-three people to die gruesome, yet still accidental deaths over the next two days. Take Mulciber, Malfoy, and Snape. Do not fail me."
Quite a few Wizengamot members – and only ones who'd voted to convict Harry Potter – found themselves quite dead in the following days. One swallowed a massive, whole radish and choked to death. Another managed to blow himself up while preparing a burn salve. A third indulged in too much Firewhiskey and ended up throwing himself off the tallest building in Knockturn Alley. A fourth was run over, several times, by a muggle lorry. A fifth mistook a preparation of quick drying cement for his favorite kind of hummus. A sixth was mauled by a feral puffskein. A seventh was boorish and rude to every goblin in Gringotts and conveniently fell to his death when he attempted to visit his vault. The eighth, well, you get the idea.
The sad part was that Harry Potter wasn't taking the Daily Prophet any longer, so he didn't see any of the results of Lord Voldemort's rather gruesome – and misplaced – peace offering. No, rather, the papers came out and announced that Harry Potter had just purchased a chateau in one of the wine producing regions of France and planned to produce under the label Chateau d'Chevalier Magie. The House of the Magical Knight.
Friday was a very bad day. Cornelius started getting reports that many of his supporters in the Wizengamot had died in gruesome, yet still accidental ways. "How is it possible for someone to drown in an inch of butterbeer? Or for someone to accidentally light themselves on fire? And is it possible for someone to consume four kilos of pure lard and die of a burst stomach?"
Fudge shrugged. He was seated in a rather uncomfortable room in the Leaky Cauldron since he still hadn't determined how to get inside his Ministerial House.
The Daily Prophet arrived. The story on the front page was just what Cornelius expected. The Ministry was shuttered. It wasn't until he dug into the inner pages that Cornelius saw two headlines that infuriated him.
"Death Eaters Found Among Former Ministry Officials, EMU Officials Say."
Cornelius scowled as he 1) thought about how those blasted European Magical Union officials were mucking around in his affairs and 2) wondered exactly why McNair, Rookwood, Edgecomb, and a whole slew of others had been apprehended. Assuming that one had acted under the Imperius Curse in the first war, why would he or she keep a set of Death Eater robes in their homes? Didn't make sense, did it? Bah, it was all another lie of some sort.
And then, buried in a tiny article on page seven: "Potter House for the Ministry to be Donated as Magical Orphanage."
The more Fudge read, the madder he became. It was obvious that Potter meant to give his house – err, the Minister's house – to some blasted Magical Orphanage. No sprogs could enjoy floating in his pool as much as he could.
This had to end; this Potter – and those goblins with their blasted treaties – was a menace. Fudge was a laughing stock. None of the other Ministers even deigned to recognize him any longer. "Sorry, Britain is without a magical government at present, my sources tell me. Couldn't have happened to a more inept regime, I'd say." That was the American response.
Blast! Double blast!
Without the ancient magics supporting the Ministry – even its wards were tied to those magics – the Aurors couldn't surveil for crimes, nor the Floo system operate, nor anyone legally negotiate with the other species. And Black and Potter had suspended the magics – not revoked them, allowing for another compact to be hammered out – the crafty bastards. Two expatriots, one a convicted criminal, although increasingly, it seems, innocent of his crimes, controlled the fate of magical Britain.
And no one…NO ONE AT ALL…was looking at Fudge to fix it. No, they were placing the blame on Fudge and looking to Potter and Black to come back and set things right.
Cornelius was eating a rather bland steak and kidney pie for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron when the next set of whispers blasted through the place.
"…why I've never. Been declared international pariahs, have we? Can't get out of Britain to visit any other countries, can we? What kind of ineptitude has caused this? And who do we blame?"
Cornelius tried to sneak back to his room on the third floor. But more than one angry mob found him before he was safely ensconced in his single room, shared bath accommodations.
Oh, how far the mighty - self-deluded as they might be - can fall!
It took Cornelius just about all the magic he had in his reserves to apply healing spells to his bruises and rather crooked nose. Apparently magical people did not enjoy having their travel plans disrupted because of petty games played at the Ministry of Magic. Nor did they particularly enjoy the EMU checking every home in wizarding Britain for evidence of Death Eaters and dark relics.
Some days it was a bad thing to be the lead "persona non grata" within a nation. Even the floo was stopped up now; Cornelius couldn't even whine to his old friends in Papua New Guinea or Outer Mongolia.
The arrests of nearly everyone in senior leadership positions in the Ministry – and on the Wizengamot – started that afternoon. The Death Eaters inside Azkaban – and a number who were outside of it – were also taken to EMU jails in undisclosed locations.
Dolores Umbridge had an enchanting visit with EMU officials who objected to a number of her family's heirlooms. "It's against EMU treaties to possess blood quills, madam, and you seem to have seven."
A smile creased the fat rolls on her obese face. "We're grandfathered in, you peasant. All pureblood practices are grandfathered in within magical Britain, you heathen. I wrote some of the damned laws myself."
The EMU official just smiled, placed the toad-like woman into magical restraints, and then proceeded to tear her home apart, stick from stick. It was a profitable exercise. She had a number of horrifying things hidden well out of sight, things no 'pureblood grandfathering' would ever be able to explain. In any case the EMU did not recognize grandfathering of any sort. A thing was legal or it wasn't. Period. Instruments of torture – illegal.
Hogwarts lost its Potions Master, even over the strenuous objections of the Hogwarts Headmaster. "But I trust him, you see. I trust him."
"Very good, sir. Then you can apply for a permit to come and visit him, too. We've gotten Pensieve testimony that Snape has cast all three of the Unforgivable Curses banned under EMU treaties. He's responsible for the deaths of more than a few witches and wizards, sir."
"But Severus Snape is no more a Death Eater than I am."
"I guess we'll have to go over your life more carefully then, sir. We had thought you were fairly clean. I'll flag you for extra scrutiny."
Cornelius lost his own freedom late that afternoon, just as he was about to go downstairs to get some dinner. Maybe there'd be some treacle tart for dessert. Yum.
But the EMU agents snagged him on the way down.
"Not a very smart politician, are you? Taking bribes in terribly obvious way. Paying them out in even more ridiculous ways. Well, at least we'll give you a fair trial. Oh, and we've recovered your wife out of the sanitarium you stuck her in. She had a number of things to say about you. She was even kind enough to request bank statements from the goblins concerning you. Very helpful lady. A bit angry, I'd say, but very helpful."
Cornelius gulped. He was screwed.
The Daily Prophet had to expand the paper's size over the weekend. Seven Aurors arrested for being Dark Lord sympathizers. A full listing of the corruption, bribery, and ineptitude of the Fudge Administration. And, finally, a sighting of Lord Voldemort himself as he was trying to break into the Ministry of Magic.
A beautiful photograph of a no-nosed, scaly bastard.
That had wizarding Britain in an uproar. He killed more than one Wizengamot member as they were mingling around near the telephone box at ground level. He disappeared, cursing about "Harry Potter not returning to stop him" and "that blasted prophecy."
On Monday, things were basically back to normal. Well, with a couple of exceptions.
First, the Potters and the Blacks reinstated the ancient treaty establishing the Ministry of Magic. The EMU awarded Sirius Black reparations of seventy-two million galleons from the Ministry coffers, improbably almost the exact amount of money that the goblins had impounded at Gringotts – as a way to send a stern and unforgettable message to future rulers. And then, as Cornelius was awaiting trial before a three judge panel for his corruption, the EMU nominated an Interim Minister: Sirius Black.
So, it was a newly wealthy, cleaned up Sirius Black who came to look at the Ministry. Most of its senior leadership was arrested, awaiting trial on hundreds of different charges. Only Amelia Bones, Amos Diggory, Dirk Cresswell, and Arthur Weasley were still around of the department heads. The entire Floo department was gone. The Misuse of Magic Office was gutted, too. The people who'd been taking bribes to persecute the centaurs were under arrest. And the goons in the Committee on Experimental Charms were already sentenced to EMU prison.
The EMU had done a rough cut of the major problems. So Sirius set about setting the smaller things right.
First, he ordered the Aurors to round up all the Dementors and sink them into the ocean.
Second, he unveiled a proclamation revoking nearly every law ever passed by the Wizengamot, particularly anything that had to do with pureblood grandfathering.
Third, he modified, with Harry Potter's agreement, the original treaty. The Wizengamot was now an elected body, rather than a hereditary one. Sirius ordered elections in three weeks. And the creation of an independent judiciary!
Fourth, Sirius adjourned and took the press with him to Azkaban...where he used a combination of spells and muggle explosives to detonate the place.
It was a rather wonderful Monday.
Harry Potter, in between all of his private lessons preparing him for his OWL and NEWT exams, learned to bottle wine. The very first bottle of Chateau d' Chevalier Magie was very special. He sent it to a special person.
Lord Voldemort opened the door to the small, secluded house where he was staying and saw the gift basket on the stoop. The envelope was addressed to the dead former occupants, so Voldemort felt confidant about stealing this little item, too. (Too bad he was far too arrogant to believe that the muggle milkman, the smart aleck paper delivery boy, and the squib utility repair man had all turned him in...which is how the French learned of him -- they had better spies than the English had spy hunters -- and thus how Harry learned of his whereabouts.)
There were cheeses, meats, and a fine bottle of a red French wine. He ordered Wormtail to drink it first. "It's good, my lord. Strong tannins."
Voldemort smirked. Wormtail wouldn't know good wine if it bit him in the arse. However, he was Voldemort's last unimprisoned Death Eater. So Voldemort had to trust the rat a little bit.
Voldemort took a sip. Good. He pulled back more into his mouth and mulled over the flavors. It was very tannic, a new bottle, very young. But with undertones Lord Voldemort had never tasted before.
Pears, earth, something metallic perhaps? And something a bit like a basilisk… WHAT!
Acromantula venom, too. And Dementor blood. Voldemort knew he was frozen. He could barely open his eyes to look for Wormtail, but the rat was already convulsing on the ground. He looked like something attacked by Dementors, dragons, acromantulas, basilisks, manticores, and nundus. It was horrible to look at. Voldemort knew it was attacking him, too.
Voldemort felt inside his magic. He was looking for the tethers between him and his horcruxes. But he couldn't feel them. If he wasn't tethered, when he died, the horcrux wouldn't bind him to the earth. No, his precious treasures weren't going to work. Something in that wine was killing him; another thing was binding his magic; and something else entirely seemed to be shredding at his very soul. What magic could do this?
Voldemort expired. His body remained behind. He did not flutter off in his spirit form to possess another person or perhaps a little animal of some sort. No, Voldemort just died, as a mortal would.
And thus did Lord Voldemort die by Harry Potter's hand.
Harry had mixed a small amount of fermented wine with every poison and foul thing he could order by owl post. And when he'd tossed it all together, and added a little heat, it actually smelled a bit like red wine. But it was the most deadly colloidal suspension ever created – bloods of every foul beast, poisons from the most lethal sources, and a touch of the old vine.
He kept another ten bottles of the Chateau d'Chevalier Magie – Special Bottling on hand for extraordinary circumstances. The Normal Bottling, as the nonlethal stock was named, sold quite well in boutique wine stores throughout France and beyond.
And, in his mind, Harry Potter was actually just a bit thankful for how stupid, venal, and deluded Cornelius Fudge had been. Harry actually enjoyed his life now. Enjoyed it quite a lot. Too bad the Wizengamot had had such a rough week of it. Oh well, Sirius would enjoy shaking things up a bit as Interim Minister, Harry knew.
Harry sipped at a glass of the Normal Bottling. Quite nice. Pears, earthy, maybe an undertone of chocolate, too. Pure heaven.