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"...take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known."
Albus Dumbledore – Goblet of Fire
Harry let go of the cup, but he clutched Cedric to him even more tightly. He raised his free hand and seized Dumbledore's wrist, while Dumbledore's face swam in and out of focus.
"He's back," Harry whispered. "He's back. Voldemort."
"What's going on? What's happened?"
The face of Cornelius Fudge appeared upside down over Harry; it looked white, appalled.
"My God - Diggory!" it whispered. "Dumbledore - he's dead!"
The words were repeated, the shadowy figures pressing in on them gasped it to those around them…and then others shouted it - screeched it - into the night - "He's dead!" "He's dead!" "Cedric Diggory! Dead!"
"Harry, let go of him," he heard Fudge's voice say, and he felt fingers trying to pry him from Cedric's limp body, but Harry wouldn't let him go. "You can't help him now. You need to let go of him and tell us what has happened. Please, Harry."
Fudge bursting into the infirmary woke Harry.
"I understand, Dumbledore, but as Minister I must take the actions I deem necessary, and I will speak to Potter immediately."
Harry opened his eyes, discovering somebody had removed his glasses. He could make out dim outlines of people.
"Minister, this is highly inappropriate," Madam Pomfrey whispered so loudly that her voice was almost a yell. "He has just taken dreamless sleep and will not be able to answer your questions for several hours."
"Sleep with his eye open does he?" asked Fudge.
Harry saw everybody turn to look at him, a gasp escaping Mrs. Weasley as she realised he was awake again.
"Mr. Potter," said Fudge. "You have been through hell and back tonight, I dare say, but I have to ask you a few questions."
Several people started objecting, but Harry cut them off.
"Yes, sir," he said.
Bill, probably noticing the way Harry was squinting uncomfortably, handed him his glasses. As the room swam into view, Harry noted a lot of people in the hospital, several he did not recognise.
"You saw you-know-who, is that right?" asked Fudge. "With your own eyes. No mistaking?"
"The Cup was a Portkey," said Harry, causing several gasps. "It took us to a graveyard. I watched Peter Pettigrew murder Cedric then perform a ritual to create a body for Voldemort."
Several sobs caught Harry's attention, and he realised Cedric's parents where at the back of the room. Harry's throat constricted.
"You told the Headmaster that you-know-who called his followers and they came to him – that he named them in front of you. Is that right?"
"Yes," said Harry again. "I can tell you who they were, some of them at least."
More gasps and Molly Weasley swooped down to envelop him in a hug.
"Thank you, Harry, but that will not be necessary. Albus, I understand you have a Pensieve. With Mr. Potter's permission, I would like to have you copy his memory so that others may view it."
"Of course, Cornelius," said Dumbledore, looking closely at the Minister as if he had never seen the man before.
"Dawlish," snapped Fudge, making one of the men near the back of the room jump. "I want you to get Bones and all of the Auror department heads here at once to view that memory. I want an arrest warrant for every person named by Voldemort. Drag every mother's son out of bed if you have to, but get them here within the hour.
"I want every single person ever suspected of being a you-know-who follower, including the ones still in Azkaban, questioned under Veritaserum before the sun sets again or there will be hell to pay.
"Albus, I trust I have your full support in this matter?"
"Indeed," said Dumbledore, nodding thoughtfully.
"Amos, Michelle," said Fudge, addressing Cedric's parents. "I cannot begin to express all of our sorrow at your loss, and though it won't bring him back, you can be sure the Ministry will do everything in its power to bring those responsible to justice."
The Diggorys sobbed loudly.
"Pomona, can I ask you to take them somewhere more comfortable and appropriate, please?" asked Professor Dumbledore. "I will join you shortly."
Professor Sprout nodded, placing calming hands on Cedric's parents' shoulders to lead them out of the infirmary.
"Potions Master," said Fudge, turning to Snape. "Professor Snape, We will need to temporarily have you placed under arrest. You will be released after supposedly being administered the truth drug, but we will of course foolishly use your own supply."
Snape paled even further, becoming closer to the complexion of ghost than that of a man.
"You understand what I am asking you to do?" asked Fudge.
Snape shot a look at the Headmaster, then reluctantly nodded.
"Good man," said Fudge. "There will be an order of Merlin in it for you, I promise. Now, off you go with Dawlish then.
"Albus, I would ask you to speak to Headmistress Maxime. We need to send envoys to the giants, and I believe she may be able to help, although I doubt she would take the request seriously if it came from me," said Fudge.
"A very wise idea," said Dumbledore. "I will ask Hagrid to accompany her. Bill would you please locate our grounds' keeper and ask him to come to my office in an hour?"
"Sure," said Bill. "Leave it to me."
With a nod to his mother, Bill clamped a hand on Harry's shoulder reassuringly and then ran off.
Harry stroked Snuffle's head gently, watching as Fudge gave more orders, sending people running off on tasks left and right. He never thought of the Minister as a strong leader, but his actions spoke for themselves.
Eventually, only Harry, Sirius, Dumbledore, and the Minister himself remained in the infirmary. Even Alastor Moody was off on a mission, despite the protests of Madam Pomfrey.
"You might as well change back, Black," said the Minister, turning to Sirius. "I know it's you and I think Harry would be better served by his godfather, rather than his pet."
Harry stared incredulously, and even Dumbledore was open mouthed with surprise. Sirius popped back into his human form, standing next to Harry apprehensively.
"I'm taking a huge risk here, Black," said Fudge. "So you better make sure nobody else sees you until I can get your sentence squashed."
Not waiting for Sirius to reply, Fudge again addressed Harry.
"Mr. Potter, Harry," he said. "You've been through an ordeal, and I won't insult your intelligence by saying I can imagine how this has affected you, but I want to tell you one thing.
"The Death of Cedric Diggory is in no way your fault. You might not feel it now, but soon you will, and at that time, I want you to remember these words: You are not responsible. I doubt if they will give you much comfort, but they are all I have to offer.
"I would give you an order of Merlin for escaping to warn us, but that would only serve to highlight the loss of Diggory more, and I am certain you do not wish for that."
Harry nodded dumbly, the words not meaning anything yet, but their intent clear.
"Now I must be off," said the Minister, gathering his hat and cloak. "I'll no doubt see you again in a few hours Dumbledore, and probably a lot more in the coming weeks than either of us will find agreeable, but we have a war to prevent."
With a nod to Harry and Sirius, the Minister swept from the room, cloak billowing behind him.
"That was unexpected," said Sirius.
"Rather," agreed Dumbledore, "but entirely welcome. Now, Harry it is time for you to take the rest of your dreamless sleep potion. Tomorrow, and for many days after it I am afraid, will be extremely tiring."
Harry nodded and downed the potion offered to him by Sirius. As the darkness closed over him again, he realised he felt immensely relieved that somebody was doing something about the terrible events of that night.
Cedric's death would not be in vain.
In the depths of the Ministry of Magic, Cornelius Fudge sat in his office, reading more reports on how his planned changes would boost the economy.
Dumbledore and Potter could deal with the Dark Lord directly, Cornelius was happy to concentrate his Aurors on protecting the people and removing the insurgents support base and resources, then using the funds gained to further his own agenda.
Legislation confiscating the vaults of those convicted with absolute certainty would be child's play to pass. With that money bankrolling him, so would giving basic rights to all magical creatures, removing the temptation for most of them to join the Dark Lord.
Thousands of productive, happy new voters were about to join the ranks, and they would know who to thank.
Wealth and prosperity would be at all time high levels before the next election was due, and nobody would consider challenging him for the position. There really was nothing like a little war, or even the threat of one, to make sweeping changes and stimulate the economy, promote innovation, and advance society in general.
Idly fingering the thick gold chain attached to a very special Department of Mysteries hourglass hanging from his neck, Fudge leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes briefly.
It was going to be different this time. That half blood bastard would not take over his Ministry. When Potter finally faced him for the last time, hopefully in a dozen years after at least a decade of the best training Magical England could provide, it was going to be with the full support of a strong Ministry behind him.
Harry would also have the personal backing of the Greatest Minister ever known, Cornelius Fudge.
Otherwise, Cornelius would come back and do it all again.
A/N Thanks again to the guys at AFC for their comments and suggestions while writing this fic.