A/N: Happy New Year to everyone! Been busy this week working on typing up all the stuff I'd written, and partying!
Chapter 129: Party Crashers
The trio arrived at the centre of London to crowded streets and onlookers, and even before they exited the vehicle their identities were discovered by passersby. For safety sake, they remained in the vehicle.
"I'll stay if you like, just so you can make a quick get away," George said as a crowd began to gather.
"No need George, we have magic for that if we need it," Severus said. "There is much to do before you join us again, and Harry to convey to the Burrow. Ah look Arthur is already here, and I dare say Molly has got after him as well to make him presentable," Severus finished as he spotted his friend pushing through the crowd.
"Have you ever, in all your life, seen a Weasley look so proper?" Sirius whispered. "I mean outside of Rosenshire."
"You're terrible, he looks very well," Gloria scolded.
"Come we best be off," Severus spoke and opened the car door. "We will see you at eleven," he added to George and climbed out.
Sirius followed Severus and then, at last Severus reached for Gloria's hand and she stepped out to the gasps of the gathered crowd. She bat her eyes at him, smiled and straightened her stance. Somewhere within the crowd cameras flashed as she took Severus' arm and the pair lead the way with Sirius and Arthur taking up the rear toward the very large building and a much more public entrance.
Shouts from the crowd resounded from both side, the good and the bad, but the now quartet made no comment as they made their way into the ministry of magic.
"If that is to be our greeting every time we come to London, I think I'd prefer never to leave Rosenshire," Sirius huffed when at last they were alone. "Everyone is a critic, it would seem."
"I do not disagree with you Sirius, but your Prophet article is bound to have caused at least some of this publicity," Arthur said. "We were prepared to see it but not to read it and Molly insists on scolding you both herself when she sees you next," he added with a tone of teasing directed at Severus and Gloria.
"It happened so quickly, Arthur, I dare say it shocked us as well," Gloria said softly. "But it is lovely to see you."
"Yes thank you for joining into our madness," Severus echoed his lady's sentiment as the greetings could not be made outside.
"Of course, it is our world now, we are very soon to be of the gentry in Rosenshire, much to the distain of many Londoners. I should be seen with the lot of you to legitimize what I have been saying," Arthur laughed and continued. "But what makes you think we will all be permitted into the tribunal?"
"We're here to crash it," Sirius said mischievously.
"And they want me present. Gloria has testimony that could be useful and we will not attend if our closest confidants are not permitted," Severus explained.
"Lord, I can only imagine what you have to tell, after the story in the Prophet, was it all true?" Arthur asked and focused his attention in on Gloria.
"Unfortunately yes," Gloria answered. "And there is far more to be told."
"How did you survive it?" Arthur gasped.
"It was thanks to Dumbledore, and Rosenshire. He freed me from London and got me back to where the magic is purest," she answered.
"My word, I'm sorry I teased, we had no idea," Arthur apologized.
"No need, Arthur," Gloria said and smiled. "It was kept very quiet for safety reasons. I would have preferred it stay that way but circumstances have changes, and it's for the greater good now."
"How awful, and yet, a glimmer of hope. Congratulations are in order I understand," Arthur said and brightened.
"Thank you," she smiled and looked to Severus.
"You sly thing," Arthur carried on. "How long has this been coming on?"
"A long time," Severus confessed as the doors of the lift opened upon the lobby of the Ministry of Magic.
"What in Gods name is the meaning of this?" The voice of the angry minister boomed as she rushed forward with her entourages, pages of the Prophet flew into the air around her.
"You wanted me here, so I am come," Severus said shortly.
"Summoned all your friends. Told of my plans. Made people to question me? How dare you," she accused as her tone and volume rose. "And then this?" She asked as the pages flew about and reassembled when she summoned them. "This is slanderous.
"It is truth!" Sirius stated defensively.
"Madame, you would be wise to lower your voice or your wrong doings may soon appeared to be public knowledge," Severus warned. "The lobby is very crowded this morning, are all of these people here for your secret tribunal?" He asked a little louder so that he would be heard over the low hum of chatter. "Is the Wizengamot aware?"
"Not much of a secret anymore," Sirius laughed.
"Would you hush?" Bagnold scolded as she turned as red as a poppy. "Come with me," she ordered and turned in her anger.
"So sorry Minister, we have strict orders to await the arrival of Albus Dumbledore. We will wait here," Severus said in defiance.
"Leave your friends to it then. I will speak to you alone," She huffed.
"No, I would rather not, thanks you," Severus said and stood his ground.
"Miss. Pairywhether, I see that you are very much alive. What timing you have," Millicent spoke through her gritted teeth.
"Yes, thank you, I am," Gloria smiled sweetly.
"And what is this all about?" She asked and motioned to the hat upon Gloria's head.
"All the rage in London, I understand," Gloria answered. "I believe the queen herself has one just like it."
"High Fashion, madame. Only the very best for my bride," Severus stated haughtily. "You know of my wealth already, so I'll not rub your nose in it."
"Oh is that not what this is?" She asked in a hushed growl.
"You gave me no choice madame," Severus said with a slight bow of his head.
"Ah look, Albus arrives, but who is that with him?" Arthur interrupted as the flamboyant man and his even more flamboyant companion stepped off the lift.
Rita's dress was a bright orange and gold leopard print gown, chapeau of fur and feathers and lace gloves that twinkled.
"It is Rita Skeeter," Gloria stated. "She is an old acquaintance of mine, and of Hannibal's," she added as the two approached and she caught the sting in the eyes of the Minister.
"Miss. Pairywhether, how well you look this morning!" Rita cried out gleefully. "And so fashionable, you will make all of the papers dressed like that."
"And you Miss. Skeeter, I see we shop at very similar places," Gloria accepted the greeting with grace and tranquility as Rita moved in and embraced her.
"Indeed, it is imperative that a lady should look her best in time such as these," Rita added haughtily.
"Ah, Madame Minister, shocking to see you amongst the common folk, but then again, Severus Snape is far from common," Dumbledore stated by way of greeting and insulting in the same breath. "Shall we get this tribunal underway? We wouldn't want to be late for the trial," he added loudly. "Are all these people joining us?" He asked as he observed the growing crowd int he lobby.
"No," Bagnold stated angrily and turned. "Please follow me, the meeting is this way," she added and began to move.
"So it's not a secret tribunal?" Sirius asked. "We came all this way with all this fanfare for a meeting? Bollocks to this, we should have stayed home, in Rosenshire."
"Indeed, I agree with you Sirius but we are here now," Severus said and followed.
The party was lead into another lift and on into the depths of the ministry building. They stopped on level nine but did not enter any of the courtrooms on level ten. Instead they were taken on into the Death Chamber which was not full, but it was occupied by several other wizards and witches of rank, some known to them, others were strangers but most were members of the ministry of magic.
"This does not bode well," Gloria said in a hushed voice to Severus as the Minister motioned them into the rows of benches and then took a place on the platform near the Dais and veil.
"It would seem we have some unforeseen guests but we have all arrived and so this tribunal is now in session." Millicent Bagnold spoke from her place before them.
"What is the meaning of this Millicent?" Archer Abbott asked. He was an auror and an avid voice against the Minister but he wasn't overly fond of Dumbledore either. "There isn't a single member of the Wizengamot present, this is not a tribunal." He observed and accused.
"I am the Minister of Magic, I may have assemblies without the Wizengamot," she retorted.
"But you shouldn't," Dumbledore spoke. "Accountability seems to be the enemy of this ministry, however, you had best carry on before someone, or other, of their ranks stumbles upon us."
"It is believed that several dark wizards have been apprehended," Millicent answered trying to keep her composure and ignoring the accusations and glares from around the room.
"I should hope so, or the ministry is doing a piss poor job," Another wizard known as Rafael Molto of the department of mysteries spoke sarcastically.
"We have Hannibal Carthridge, Lucius Malfoy, Gellert Grindelwald, and Tom Riddle all in custody," She announced boastfully.
"Thanks, in majority, to Albus and his loyalists, no you. This was not your doing in the least, so can the ministry really take credit for any of these?" Kingsley Shacklebolt asked.
"I understand that you and several others under the employment of the ministry are in fact loyalists, so yes the ministry may take the credit," Millicent answered angrily and then accused. "Do you deny it?"
"I am not the subject of your tribunal. I am but an auror and employee here, but no, I do not deny my allegiance to Albus Dumbledore," Shacklebolt. "And I dare say that there are more people loyal to him in this room then there are who are loyal to you, and rightly so," he added to demean her even further. "Are you not a good, and vocal, acquaintance of Hannibal Carthridge?"
Gasped rose around the room.
"Until the bitter end," another witch verified the authenticity of the claim as she entered. "She would not authorize his arrest until this morning," Mrs. Lavinia Dawson, a member of the law enforcement team added.
"So is that why we are really here, to gain information we already know and to be scolded for choosing a side?" A young woman, gorgeous in her looks, and determined in her stance asked before Millicent could defend herself.
"We are here to find the truth," Millicent answered sheepishly.
"Isn't that what the Wizengamot is for?" Sirius asked. "We are but private citizens, we should not be making any of the big decisions when we have a system of law already."
"Thank goodness I took the whispers seriously," Lavinia said and sat near to where Dumbledore was. "Not a single member of the Wizengamot is here. I will be speaking to Euphegenia about this gross misconduct on your part Minister."
"Fetch her now, if you wish, but I will not put an end to this and wait," Millicent screeched.
"I'll act as her eyes and ears, as will the rest of these very good people," Lavinia stated. "You best carry on, or you will be late for the trial, and because of you, we will all be tardy, so why are we here?"
"Indeed, my dear colleagues, what is the purpose of this tribunal?" Albus asked as he stood and stepped down. "What are you playing at?" He asked and got right up in Millicent's face.
"Step back sir, or I shall have you arrested," Millicent hissed.
"We will not arrest him," Lavinia stated. "He has done nothing wrong, but you on the other hands…"
"I am the Minister of Magic, you will do as you're told!" Millicent yelled.
"No, I wont," Lavinia stated. "Nor will Albus."
"Because you are one of his Loyalists as well?" Bagnold accused.
"Indeed." Lavinia stated proudly. "And my husband, Guillaume, as well."
"Am I, and my loyalists, on trial? Or is it you Madame who should bare the brunt of our questions and discontent?" Albus asked as it appeared like fumes were issuing forth from the ministers ears.
"How dare you," she cried. "You are here because you are governed by this ministry therefore you should be loyal to me."
"We are loyal to a side misconstrued by the banner of government. You should choose a side," Albus stated. "And then stick to it regardless of the consequences."
"I have my side," she stated. "Now if you would kindly sit, we have matters to discuss."
"Malfoy and your public displace of power?" Dumbledore asked as he sat. "Who are you really making a display for?"
"Malfoy's fate is to be decided at the trial today but we have been forced at this time to move Gellert Grindelwald because we believe to have a much stronger and more dangerous wizard in custody," Bagnold explained, ignoring the accusations and to try and reestablish her footing. "You who caught him in the first place should know. That is the courtesy of this tribunal. You who know his ways should decide his fate."
"No, the Wizengamot should," Severus stated.
"Is he here?" Albus asked.
"He can be brought in," she answered. "He is at Azkaban. And the Wizengamot already decided his fate once."
"That place will not hold him. You should have left him in Siberia with Riddle. The Fortress could have held them both. As it stands, he's likely plotted his escape."
"You would rather see him and Riddle plotting together at the Krepost?" She asked indignantly. "You who advocated that those two should never meet because 'the dangers would be beyond our scope', your words."
"The whole point of the Krepost is isolation. There are many cells, wandering in the nothingness for all eternity, deep, white, snow and nothing for ever. It is similar spell work to the Dais before you. Gellert, though brilliant with his disguises, was still wandering lost until you pulled him from that. It is a place devoid of magic and you've returned him to a place where he can access it. Should he and Riddle have met there, which is impossible had you kept them in separate cells, but say they did, they wouldn't have found a way out of the nothing that we built to house them. They would have been lost and without magic in the solitary captivity of the Krepost. Azkaban is nothing in comparison, and Krepost was constructed with Grindelwand in mind. How foolish could you be?" Albus asked angrily now. "Or perhaps you did not do your research. Krepost is before your time and so you are ignorant of its powers."
"If he escapes my dementors, he will come for you, wont he Albus?" She asked as a twisted grin of revenge passed over her features as she believed she had insulted the man before her and, in a way, threatened his stability as a leader among those who were loyal. "You who have his wand," she accused. "You are his only target at this time."
"I am not afraid of Gellert Grindelwald, in fact, I once welcomed his friendship but you will have much to deal with should he, nay, when he escapes. For I have now warned you and I will return to Hogwarts to carry on. Your insults are only your own foolishness dressed as revenge and anger. He is not my problem, nor is he my enemy, even if I have his wand. You are a fool Millicent Bagnold to underestimate Gellert Grindelwald." He warned.
"And should he escape, you'll not jump in to help us?" She asked. "That could be considered treason."
"I will help if he comes to me. I will assist if he remained in Great Britain but I have my post, just as my friends and loyalist have theirs and so Gellert will be your problem entirely. I leave him to the fools who released him from his prison in Siberia," Albus retorted.
"Fetch him," Millicent ordered of her lackeys and moments later a sickly, pale man was dropped before them on the platform. "Gellert Grindelwald this is not a trial. This is not for your convenience. You have been stripped of your powers. What have you to say for yourself?" She asked as a show of her power over him.
"Hello Albus, you're looking well," Gellert spoke, ignoring Bagnold.
"You look of death, old friend," Albus responded.
"Death would have been a welcome adventure. That place you designed was a void of nothingness. Quite the modern marvel, bravo. It was boring as all hell, but you did well. I am pleased to be away from it, however, thank you," he said and this was the slight and only acknowledgement the Minister received. "What's new and exciting in this modern world?" Gellert asked and grinned at Albus.
"Much has happened," Albus answered.
"Lord, you are as boring as ever. I'm bored…"
"I'm sure you are," Albus said.
"So, how are the kiddos?" He asked playfully.
"Bright as ever."
"But not as bright as us, right?"
"Would you two stop," Bagnold demanded angrily.
"Sorry, who are you again?" Gellert asked.
"I'm the Minister of Magic! You will respect me!" she demanded
"Albus, how long have I been gone?" Gellert asked in shock. "What happened to…oh what's his name… old Harold Minchum?"
"Harold Minchum is dead," Millicent stated angrily.
"Shame, I liked him. He had a thing for dementors though, strange, fetishy, weirdo," Gellert said and laughed. "Who are all these people? You said this wasn't a trial, so am I an attraction now? Should do some tricks? In all these chains I'm a bit of a flop but take them off and I'll really stretch my legs," he added with a wink to her. "Greatest show you've ever seen, I promise."
"How dare you! Your fate rests in my hands," She said as she stood taller to intimidate.
"You smell like chocolates and tobacco," he said. "Vices of your? Everyone needs them. I personally was a fan of a good dark rum. Nothing fancy, just real strong. The muggles had that down."
"I brought you here for a reason, do you know what this is?" She asked and motioned to the veil.
"I do, do you?" He asked slyly.
"Millicent, what are you plotting?" Albus asked struck with concern.
"If I jump, you can't take credit," Gellert stated playfully.
"You'd die!" She said to intimidate.
"One: I don't believe that to be entirely true. I just don't think you understand the magic completely and so you turn to death as an excuse. Two: did you miss the part about death as an adventure?" Gellert asked playfully with glee in his eyes. "Do not weep, dear people, I'll find my way back to you!" He added to the assembled crowd, bowed with a flare and rattling of his chances and then jumped.