Notes: I actually updated this on my LJ at the start of the week, and then forgot to put it here too! Sorry! Anyways, just a tiny reminder, yes, Dominique and James are cousins, but, given that it's not illegal to be with your cousin in my country, nor in Britain where this story is set (let alone in the Wizarding world!), I don't really see it as a problem. :)
Chapter 37: Truth's Out
"Oi!" called Uncle Charlie's voice from the gate at the Orchard. "Your folks—" He came to a dead halt, and looked mortified, as he saw James fall backwards onto the ground and away from the girl he had clearly been about to kiss. "Shite, sorry," began the dragon wranger, "if I'd known, I'd—"
Dominique turned scarlet. She aimed a nasty kick at the fallen James, making him wince as her boot connected with his ankle, and hissed, "Now do you see what I mean?"
Inwardly, Charlie was beating himself over the head with a bludger. Outwardly, he said simply, "Your folks sent me to find you. They want to take you all back to school, now."
"Right," said Dominique quickly, and she stormed out of the orchard, past her Uncle whilst avoiding his gaze and headed towards The Burrow.
James flopped back onto the ground with a groan and put his hands over his eyes. "Just kill me now, Uncle Charlie, it'd be simpler for everyone involved."
Charlie came into the orchard and offered the boy his hand. "Upsadaisy, old man. You'll live to fight another round yet."
James took his hand, let himself to be pulled to his feet, and then dusted down his robes.
"That mean she said yes to going to the Ball?" Charlie asked conversationally as they headed back towards the Burrow themselves.
"Nope," muttered James in a tired voice. "We – er – hadn't really gotten to that bit yet."
"I really am sorry," repeated his uncle.
James, who had in the heat of the moment wanted rather nothing more than to leap off the ground and punch his uncle square in the face, now gave a small helpless smile and mumbled, "Not your fault, is it?"
When they arrived in the laundry, where his parents, Uncle Ron, and a scattering of others – plus the kids – were waiting, Dominique refused to look at him. She actually crossed her arms and turned her back on him. It hurt inside, so he asked, as if he didn't care at all, "Where's Aunt Hermione?"
His mother exchanged a sad glance with Uncle Ron. Most of his mother's smiles were sad, he'd noticed– he supposed that losing Uncle Percy had taken it out of her, and his Dad's eyelessness had probably hit her hardest of all of them. For the first time he wondered, with a burst of righteousness indignation on his mother's behalf, why in earth his Dad couldn't just get some magical eyes or, at the very least cover the ghastly blankness with something a little more efficient than a low pulled hood.
"Your Aunt went back to Hogwarts on her own," answered Ginny. "She's been given permission to continue scouring the library. She's... still sure that your prophecy, Dominique, is about poor Rosie and, well, anyway, dear, you have a nice rest of term, although I know that's asking a lot." And she hugged both her sons quickly. "I'll send your dress robes along later, Jamie."
Dominique's back grew even straighter at the mention of her ill-fated prophecy and Ginny, who had an eye for that kind of thing, gave it a quick, curious glance. Then Dominique's parents arrived and said their goodbyes, and those who were leaving, left.
Hogsmeade was as familiar to James as his own home in Grimmauld Place, seeing as he'd spent practically every weekend in the small, magical town since he'd been allowed to and, even before that, had been on regular visits there, with his parents, to see his 'Uncle' Neville and 'Auntie' Hannah. He knew the small streets, and where they ended, and the names of the little alleys and family store-fronts, and he really quite loved them a lot but – but the Hogsmeade into which they Apparated (and Side-Along Apparated) was not the Hogsmeade he remembered ever having seen before.
Despite the fact that it was a Tuesday, and not late in the day at all, most of the shops had a closed-up look to them, and residents gathered outside their neighbour's doors in small, whispery groups. When Harry, Ron, Charlie, and the accompanying children, appeared in the middle of the High Street, they found themselves the objects of some very strange looks indeed. The weird little sideways glances thrown at them made Dominique's skin crawl, and she watched as many people retreated abruptly indoors, whilst others crept a little further forwards, expressions on their faces seeming to indicate that they were about to see some grand spectacle. Her uncles were muttering loudly and then, even as the wave of sudden, bone-wrenching cold hit her, Harry and Ron, and Charlie a second later, bellowed out, "Execto patronum!"
A stag, a terrier, and a slightly scruffy-looking dragon took shape and danced nervously around before them.
Dominique could make out shadowy figures at the end of the High Street.
All the remaining observers retreated away behind the deceptive safety of closed doors.
Harry murmured, "No... not possible..."
Dominique sought her own wand, without avail, vaguely remembered in a panic that she didn't have it again, and then, in the momentum of what happened next, forgot clean about it.
"What the hell is going on?" continued Harry, perhaps more questioning himself, or the universe at large, than any specific person but, as if in answer, a wizard appeared a few metres away from the silver creatures; a wizard whom none of the children were familiar with. Their uncles, however, apparently knew him quite well. He was tall, more than six feet, and the fact that he was surely in his late sixties had had no noticeable impact upon his powerfully built figure beneath the long, dark robes which he wore. And he was smiling, rather unpleasantly, from behind his beard.
"Runcorn," said Harry softly. "I don't suppose you fancy explaining why there are Dementors in Hogsmeade, considering their presence in the general wizarding world was outlawed over twenty years ago?"
Runcorn's smile hardened and thinned at the same time. "I'm afraid I have to inform you that rather a lot has happened in the last few days, Auror. Been out of the loop, haven't you, over there at your little funeral. Family and friends all tucked away to mourn the untimely death of Percy Weasley, and what a loss he will be to the magical community. My regrets from the Ministry."
Ron surged forwards at the disparaging tone of the man's voice, and Charlie made a dull growling noise, but hauled his younger brother backwards. The wizard didn't seem to have noticed, or thought it beneath him if he had. He traced the nasty red scar that moved the whole length of his face and made his lips twist almost obscenely. "It was Percy Weasley who gave me this little memento, you know," he mused. "Think of him every time I look in the mirror..."
Dominique and the other children breathed in slightly at this – so Runcorn must have been at the Battle of Hogwarts, presumably, because where else was Uncle Percy likely to have maimed somebody? Runcorn, then, must have been one of the Death Eaters who's allegiance had never been proven beyond doubt...
"But what are you babbling about, man?" asked Harry, not taking Runcorn's bait. "What's happened since I've been away from the Ministry?"
The man smiled again. "The wizarding community has had its eyes opened, Harry Potter. Did you think that you could conceal something as large as the fact that the Dark Lord's most loyal supporter has been hiding low at Hogwarts for all these years? Or what about the fact that you know – at the most, suspected – that, and even had spies following her around, and yet didn't do a thing to stop the witch from escaping..."
Harry and Charlie exchanged a glance.
Runcorn smiled. "The public has turned against you, Potter, and your puppet Ministry with it. The Minister stepped down this morning. I'm pleased to announce that the position of Acting Minister has so surprisingly been given to me. Don't think we haven't all known the way that you've run everything from your Auror Department, and your lackeys at Howgarts, Potter. Everyone expected you to go for Minister of Magic years ago, but you were much too much like Dumbledore, you'd rather play from off of the page. Well, I'm afraid the game's over and all the filthy washing is about to come out into the sunlight. Like the dirty little Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher you installed, and her nasty little habits—"
Charlie hissed, "Remy," and a second later Apparently away, presumably to the nearest secret passageway where he could get into Hogwarts quickly, seeing as you couldn't Apparate there directly.
Runcorn laughed. "Indeed, there seems to be a lot of the Dark Arts in amongst the your precious Order nowadays. What about your godson? What about you? Did you think you coulod keep your missing eyes a secret, Potter, and how you're dealing with them? You flaunt them publicly enough! Don't get me wrong, I finding it awfully ironic, really, that you would—"
"My Dad doesn't do Dark Arts! And nor does Teddy!" shouted Albus angrily, shoving his way out from behind his older brother, who was staring at him in disbelief; the younger boy pulled his wand out as though he were intending on duelling Runcorn, but the wizard just laughed and disarmed him.
"Want to walk in Daddy's shoes, do you, boy? You know you could end in Azkaban for attacking the Ministr of Magic. Maybe by Yule we'll have a family wing there for the Potters alone." He glanced at Harry. "I presume you'll come without a fight?"
Then a number of things happened.
Ron shouted, "Protego!" in the general direction of the children and bellowed something about running – Harry mumbled something about 'people always making that mistake', and shot a Stunning curse at Runcorn – and then the uncles vanished and their patronuses faltered. Lily let out a shriek and James send his own Patronus stalking down the street at full-pace whilst Dominique grabbed the two youngest children by the arms and set off for the first safe place she could think of – the Hog's Head pub.
If Runcorn had wanted to stop them he could have. Instead, he just laughed and let them go...