"Lie to a liar, for lies are his coin; Steal from a thief, for that is easy; lay a trap for a trickster and catch him at first attempt, but beware of an honest man"
There were a lot of truths to tell Percy. Finally though, the words died down, leaving everyone in the room looking at him, a bit worried.
Harry was very worried, to tell the truth. He knew that the Weasleys were famous for their temper, and from the fight Percy had had with his family that summer, he was sure that Percy was capable of it. And while Scrimgeour and Madam Bones had interrupted with questions fairly often, Percy hadn't.
Harry looked at Percy. Leadership had changed him. Any denial that would have taken place due to the slandering of Harry's name from the newspapers, any anger that Percy would have shown was well-contained.
Finally, perhaps knowing that everyone was waiting for his reaction, he looked around.
"Anything else?" Percy inquired calmly.
Slowly, everyone shook their heads. They had told him about the Order of the Phoenix, about Sirius and Harry, about Callahan covering Harry's education, the locket, the visions, especially the one about rigging the election... everything that could have possibly been told.
It was a ticking bomb. Harry was waiting for him to demand Harry go back to himself, that they'll give Sirius a trial, to let the adults handle everything...
"You seem to have taken care of mostly everything, then," Percy said, making everyone gape at him in astonishment. "I won't lie and say I approve of it all. I think that you should all be worrying more about school, especially with OWLs and NEWTs approaching. And Ginny, you're... you're too young for this, really you are." He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, "But everyone says that about me and this job, so I guess we're even there."
"You're... taking this... really, really good Perce," Fred said slowly.
"It's either scream and lose my mind completely or realize this isn't a bad thing," Percy said. He looked at Harry, "Is that why you were helping me so much? Because of this?"
"No," Harry said immediately. "I was helping you because I think you're right in this. I agree with the things you're doing. That's why I got involved and everything. I... I just didn't want you think think this was a militia or anything."
Percy nodded and looked at Scrimgeour and Madam Bones, "Know anything about horcruxes?"
"We will in a few days," Madam Bones replied. "Frankly, I'm more concerned about the election."
Scrimgeour nodded in agreement, as did a few others.
"I think the ICW is capable of handling the issue," Percy said, thinking.
Harry thought for a few seconds, "You think they might know whatever he's planning?"
"Probably planned ahead for something like it, yes," Percy said. "This isn't the first time they've stepped into an election, after all." The Minister of Magic looked around the room and slowly smiled, "I do have a few ideas though."
"We want equality. Just because nobody knows about this group doesn't mean we can't adhere to our own principles."
Remus slowly smiled, "Other beings."
"Right in one, Professor," Percy answered with a smile. "Would that be all right with everyone here?"
"Yeah," Aberforth answered. "Slight thing though, going back to that election issue."
"I've thought about it too," Hermione offered quietly, making everyone turn. Making her a bit nervous due to all the attention, she said, "Mr. Malfoy threatened the board of governors back in second year to make them tell Dumbledore to leave. What if the candidate for the Death Eater does the same thing? There won't be much to worry about at the actual polls then."
"The little missy's on the right track," Aberforth said.
"Got that right," Alastor grunted. "Knowing Albus..."
Aberforth nodded, rolling his eyes, "That dolt of a brother of mine will probably convince someone in the Order to run against you as well."
"I thought the Headmaster liked some of the changes..." Percy said, looking around.
Remus chuckled, "He thinks that your associate, Mr. Light Porter over there, is a dark wizard in the beginning stages. He feels that Light will take over the Ministry."
Madam Bones began to laugh at this, true laughter that was infectious because everyone because to laugh as well at the thought being voiced aloud. Because really, it was funny. One simple mistake that it seemed just made things so easy. And normally the man wasn't easy to fool, but his past mistakes really were making sure that he just stayed... blind.
And well, once the truth was known, the idea of Harry Potter being Dark was just laughable. Harry Potter, who lost his family to those that practiced dark arts? Harry Potter being like those bigots when his cousin was a werewolf, when the people he admired most were a werewolf and those that broke rules, including that of their social status and family backgrounds?
"So they have spies in the Death Eaters and the Ministry." Percy looked thoughtful.
"Actually, not as much as you'd expect," Sirius piped up. "Remember, you've got some on different guard details now. Can't exactly pass for being in the Ministry. Its one of the reasons why Dumbledore thinks Harry is a dark wizard."
Madam Bones nodded, "Names will be hard to get due to the protections that Dumbledore has up, I'm sure. But we'll make do. And besides, if they want to play the spy game, well... we have them a bit beat. In any age group." This was said with a slight smile towards the younger folks. "My niece would have quite the fit, I'm sure, you lot being here and not her."
Everyone nodded, knowing that was probably quite true. "Our next meeting will have to be another day when you're all free. Or evening, if you two are involved." Percy said this with a look at his younger twin brothers, who, far from looking sheepish, beamed proudly.
"School starts tomorrow. We can have a meeting this weekend."
"I'll go inform the others that I'll be bringing," Percy said standing. "And then I'll have to attempt to prepare for election day, I suppose. Since it's an emergency election, at least my opponents won't have as long as usual to slander my name. A few days."
"Bad enough," Dudley grumbled, everyone nodding in agreement.
"Let's get going. And... Light?" Percy looked at Harry with a smile. "Thank you."
Harry swallowed hard and said quietly, "We're... we're still... okay?"
Percy nodded. "It wasn't easy to tell me, I'm sure. We're fine. Settle things here, I'll be talking with Ragnok and a few others before heading back to the Ministry. See you there?"
"Definitely." Harry watched as they left and the others looked at each other, rather proud. "That went well."
Ginny nodded, "I was expecting a lot worse. I guess all this has changed him a bit."
George scoffed, "Not a bad thing. Perce was a bit of a prat."
"A bit?" Fred muttered.
"Enough of that," Alastor said, making them fall silent. "We have other things to think about. When you lot get back to school, try to find anything related to Voldemort. We'll keep trying to make Albus see that things aren't as dire as he thinks-"
"Not going to happen. Heaven forbid he admits he was wrong," Aberforth said.
"And just keep going as normal!" Alastor finished, making Harry share a look with his cousin, who was trying hard to not smile. Harry couldn't help it though and soon the two of them broke out into giggles. It was just so insane, this entire situation now was just filed under the category of normal for them.
Harry passed some time with his friends that day before heading to the Ministry to help tackle the monster of paperwork that still somehow managed to be there despite everything going on. He was calm at first, but as the days passed, he grew nervous because he learned of the people running against Percy.
Peter Yaxley was a Death Eater. Harry had seen him in his visions, but there was no definite proof. He knew all about the ins and outs of the Ministry and many 'traditional' people were supporting him. Not all were Death Eaters; some really were just against so many sudden changes being made.
The person from the Order was Kingsley Shacklebolt, an Auror with an excellent reputation. He was known in the Ministry as a very decent person and Harry could see from his record that he was good at his job. He was fair to everyone he met and Harry had to admit that if it wasn't for the fact that he supported Percy fully that Shacklebolt would have been an excellent choice.
And then there was, of course, Percy. Younger than both of the others by decades, and well, it was fairly easy for people to just indicate the fallout and changes he made so rapidly, easy for them to remind people of how young Percy was and oh, it was to be expected due to the manner he received the office in, trying to lump him in with Fudge and Umbridge.
Percy didn't bother retaliating against them because, as he stated many times, he was too busy working. Harry didn't like it very much, but he could understand Percy's logic. The first meeting with all of the people in the new group of the Ministry went... extremely well. There had been representatives there even from the merpeople.
That hadn't been as hard as Harry had thought it'd be. Aberforth had found a huge tank and Percy had authorized a portkey for the ones there. The hard thing, according to Aberforth, was hiding the tank from 'his nosy overbearing brother.' Harry had found it rather funny.
Though the group was the equivalent of an undercover department for the Ministry, Harry had noticed that the goblins and others seemed to think of it as extremely significant, even if nobody knew about it. Callahan had said it was because it showed that the Minister was very serious about equality, even when the public didn't see.
Harry supposed that made sense in an odd way. But he did still feel slightly guilty despite all the hectic activity and having told almost everything.
Almost... because he hadn't told about his correspondence with one Gellert Grindelwald.
The former dark lord had helped a lot with his knowledge, his insights. Harry genuinely enjoyed writing to the man. He was smart and funny. It was easy to see how he had convinced Albus Dumbledore to be friends. And it was easy to feel nervous writing to him. Had he really changed? Was it all an act, to try and get close?
Harry didn't know. It was why he made sure that he was keeping the correspondence quiet. He had written back after the last letter, thanking the man for telling him about intents and the like.
But the words from the last letter still rang in Harry's head sometimes.
… Like a game, like the best drug, the best... there was no words for the feeling. It was better than any spell, any potion, and completely superficial...
Did Voldemort feel that way? Harry wondered it more than ever now. Why go out of his way to rig elections and the like? Obviously it was all for power.
But why? No one could be born evil, Harry was sure of that. Had Voldemort just gone too far in his hunt for knowledge like Grindelwald? But he had been sixteen when he had killed someone with the basilisk.
It was complicated. Harry didn't know why, but he felt that learning the dark lord's past, learning things like that, might help a fair bit in the future.
Though, he thought ruefully, it wouldn't be much help with the election, would it?
It was early one morning as Harry sat thinking, looking at the Daily Prophet. Everyone else was at school, but he had been up late researching and the like, and so his schedule was not the same as theirs. So he was looking at the articles now, raising an eyebrow at one.
ICW at odds with committees about number of ballots.
Harry made a face. The committees were headed by mainly traditional people that didn't like the changes. They had all been rather supportive of the ideals of the Death Eaters. Harry tried rather hard to push that from his mind. That wouldn't matter right now. They still had charge of the committees... and the committees usually prepared things for the election.
Due to turnouts in the past, the committees seemed to believe that the ICW wanted too many things. They were deeming it a waste of resources and the like.
The ICW was stating that the amount of ballots was perhaps enough for 5% of the entire population of the country, and of those there weren't any made for allowances for beings like centaurs and merpeople.
The article then went into a long claim of how they weren't beings...
Harry felt tired and he pushed the newspaper away. Reading the news lately just seemed to make him more and more irritable. It seemed that most of the time, it was the other two candidates trying to make Percy look bad... and the rest of the world in the international section seemed to be begging for their country to 'finally join the modern world.' They seemed to like the youngest Minister and Harry desperately hoped others would vote for him.
The ICW's emergency election would be the next day, and Harry was very very nervous.
He knew who all of Dudley's people would vote for... he tried not to smile as he wondered how many of the beings would vote for Percy. The goblins were rather obvious... but who else would vote?
The teen sighed. Worrying would do nothing. This slander against Percy's changes and himself... he couldn't understand how Percy just didn't argue back. Every time someone tried, he would retort that he had work to do. He had to catch up with things, deal with Voldemort, try and make amends with the international community, and fix education.
Though the editorial by the WWN made Harry chuckle.
'Minister Weasley has actually done his job instead of lounging in his office. Everyone seems to say the obvious of what's going on. Nobody is saying what they would do in his stead. Would they continue to allow the status quo of bigotry, ignorance and isolation?'
It went on in that manner. The boy shook his head and went to help out at the Ministry as usual. But as he did so, he couldn't help but wonder if this would be the end of everything. If Percy lost... Harry would still help Dudley, of course, but Voldemort would go after him.
The thought made Harry feel queasy. He knew he had to be ready, be prepared. The blood wards would be helpful. But Madam Bones and Scrimgeour and Percy... they had given up everything willingly...
Everyone had. Everyone involved in their group had sacrificed so much. To have people that didn't know any of it voting... people that were going to try and rig this election, the ICW fighting for every little thing...
The teen took a deep breath and forced himself to help with the paperwork. If it was his last day there, nobody would be able to say that they didn't work until the end.
And maybe the election would be okay. With the protection the ICW was setting up, Harry had no idea how Voldemort would rig it. But if anyone would find a way...
"Focus," Percy said, making Harry nod and grab more work.
Right now, all he could do was be patient, wait, and help. And that's exactly what he did until the next day arrived and the news only talked about one thing: the election. He had classes in the morning, but Harry couldn't really think about them.
He still felt sick after having heard the WWN that morning talking about voter intimidation, at attempts of destroying voter areas and even spells that worked around the wards, that made people run to the restroom, or itch uncontrollably. And some people were saying they couldn't see anything on the ballots...
At the same time, there were a lot of good things too. The highest voter turnout in centuries, with beings of all kinds voting, including centaurs and goblins, being the main one. There was a record-high amount of Muggleborns voting too, with some of them saying that for the first time it 'seemed as if the election wasn't rigged.' People weren't allowing the spells to stop them either, having some people just conjuring up things to deal with the itching and the like. And still others were just enacting their own wards to cope.
"Light, a little attention would be nice," Callahan said, making the teen jump and look at him.
"Sorry," Harry said quietly. "Just..."
"I know," Callahan murmured, sighing. "I know. But worrying won't solve anything."
Frustrated, the boy looked at him. "How can you be so calm?" Harry demanded. "Depending on who wins this will depend on if we have to go into hiding and how we fight!"
The man gave Harry a look, "You can be worried and still work. You've done it before."
Harry fell silent at that. Callahan was right... he had. The problems he faced had never stopped him before. If the worst happened, it would happen. He would face it when it did, just as he always had.
Energy and a bit of hope renewed, Harry set back to work.
Everything seemed as normal as it could get until the evening version of the Daily Prophet arrived. There was a huge headline on it saying how Peter Yaxley had won by a landslide and how hardly anyone voted in favor of the amendments... it was horrible.
"What?" Callahan said, staring at the paper.
Harry looked at him with horror, "Should we go get the others?"
"No," the man said, shaking his head. "I'm confused because the polls aren't even closed yet."
"What?" Harry looked at the newspaper in surprise. "But..."
Callahan took out his pocket watch to show Harry,"It's six pm." When Harry nodded, the man continued, "The polls don't close until 10."
Harry looked back at the paper, indignant now. "But they said they did surveys and everything! And now everybody is going to think that there's no point or anything!"
The man nodded, "I'm aware. In the Muggle world, the news isn't allowed to report on election results for that reason. The ICW can't exactly prosecute the Daily Prophet for it, because it's not against the law here. Nobody really ever did anything regarding it before."
Harry wanted to mutter a few comments he was sure that Callahan wouldn't approve of. "They're really trying to rig this, aren't they?" He mumbled.
"Politics," Callahan said with a shrug. "Don't worry. I'm sure that the ICW will ensure that everyone knows polls are still open. And the Wireless is providing information too, remember." He sighed and continued, "Still, this is just another sign of what many have wanted for a while. Businesses need competition."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked.
The familiar voice of Snape answered from the entrance, "Business and economic competition in most countries is often limited or restricted. Competition often is subject to legal restrictions. The Ministry practically owns the Prophet, Cal, everyone knows that. And they restricted competition against it."
"The Quibbler," Cal grumbled, shaking his head. "It's a tabloid, Light."
"Oh," Harry said, looking at Snape, who was holding a bag.
His potions professor shook his head tiredly, "This dolt probably hasn't been eating properly," he explained, indicating Callahan. "Everyone has been under a lot of stress lately, but that's no excuse to starve yourself."
"Oh, if this isn't the pot calling the kettle black," Callahan protested immediately.
Snape ignored him, setting the bag down. Harry could smell the delicious food inside now and his mouth watered. "Has had you working all day, I'll wager," Snape murmured, giving Callahan a look. "Cal, I know the elections have you concerned, but really..."
"And what, you're not?" He retorted.
"Not as badly as the Headmaster," Snape answered. "He actually fainted when he read the headline to the evening edition. Minerva brought him to the hospital wing. How he could actually believe the Daily Prophet is beyond me, it's rubbish. I've used it for everything except reading."
Harry blinked, unable to keep a slight grin from his face. "Like what?"
Callahan raised an eyebrow as he took food out from the bag. "Well, Sev?"
"I used it to muffle my alarm clock today," Snape mumbled, not look at either of them. While Callahan burst into laughter and Harry bit his cheek to keep from laughing, the man continued, "Honestly, for a lot of things. I've used it to keep the space under my typewriter neater, used it in my garden to keep out weeds, to line storage boxes, and I practice both origami and transfiguration with it. Origami keeps me from killing my students daily. I'll make cranes, lots of them, charm them to fly, and then blast them."
Both Callahan and Harry were just staring at Snape.
"... What?" He asked, almost defensively, looking his usual irritated self.
Callahan spoke, "Just that the stress relief habits of Severus Snape are so... intriguing. Never would have thought of doing that myself."
"Because you're an idiot," Snape said it so matter-of-factly that Harry couldn't help but laugh. Yes, it was Snape that said it, but it was still rather funny.
"Oh, so are you," Callahan retorted, serving the beef stew and potatoes. Harry breathed in deeply. Delicious. So delicious. "Thanks Sev," Callahan said, smiling and making servings for three.
"Thank you, sir," Harry said.
Snape just rolled his eyes and waved his hand, "Eat. I'll never be able to work with you hanging off me in gratitude." With that, the man went to the other side of the tent and began to brew a bit. As they began to eat though, Snape spoke, "Cal, what on earth did you do to Potter?"
"Huh?" Callahan and Harry both shared a look, both thinking the same thing: Sirius. "Has he done something?"
"Judging from his new-found ability to crash into the goalposts on the Quidditch Pitch, I think his House is going to lose their games if they keep him on the team," Snape said, shaking his head. "Then there's the potions classes. He keeps saying things I've never taught my class because they were outdated last decade. And he doesn't seem to know half the staff or students. And his handwriting... It isn't the same. Something's happened to him, but there's no sign of what."
"I haven't really seen him," Callahan murmured quietly. "Please, continue if you don't mind."
"It's as if he's petrified to misstep or something. Albus... is placing the blame on someone who isn't involved at all, but he doesn't want to listen." Snape gave Harry the briefest of glances here, but Harry knew what it was for.
"Crashing into the goalposts?" Callahan asked with concern.
"Apparently, his mumbled excuse was 'these are faster than the brooms I'm used to.''" Snape said it while making quotation marks with his fingers. "When Ms. Johnson heard that, she shrieked that he's had the broom for two years and he's never had an issue with a broom. When Potter answered he hadn't practiced, Ms. Johnson screamed so loudly that Minerva took away points." The man chuckled and shook his head. "They brought him to the hospital wing with Ms. Johnson swearing the crash caused brain damage."
Callahan and Harry shared another look of concern. They hadn't counted on the actual work being an issue. Sirius would be decades out of practice with school and schedules and having been in Azkaban for so long probably hadn't helped those things any either.
"Saying things that are outdated?" Harry asked now, looking a bit worried. His marks were at stake...
"Yes, and he glowers when I state as much," Snape said, his usual sneer on his face now.
"Oh Sev, show a little pity-" Callahan began.
"Look, I'm sorry Cal, but sarcasm is my mind's natural response to stupidity." Snape said it quickly, irritated. "No. Look, I think something's happened to your charge. I don't know what. I don't know how. But something has happened. Probably during that time he ran away, idiot brat."
Harry stuffed his mouth with potato to repress the urge to retort.
"Sev, stop it," Cal said. "We would have done the same thing in that situation and you know it. Unable to trust family, not able to find your friends and being slandered?"
Snape made a hmming noise before nodding assent, "I suppose. But still, I do think something happened." He shook his head, "For all I know right now, that Dementor might have put someone else's soul into Potter. Albus won't say anything as long as the boy doesn't do anything ominous, but I won't just abandon Lily's son to that fate."
Callahan looked at Snape, looked rather grave and serious now. "Sev, do you want me to make an appearance? As the boy's guardian, I have that right. Do you want me to pull him from Hogwarts, get to the bottom of this?"
"...No," Snape said, shaking his head. "Albus does have his best interests at heart, in the end. And he is a huge deterrent to those that would go after the boy. I just thought you should know. After all... the last time someone returned from a break acting differently, the Dark Lord was living on the back of his head." Snape looked both irritated and sick at the memory of Quirrel and Harry couldn't really blame him.
"I'll speak with him, see if everything is all right," Callahan said quietly.
Snape nodded, waving his wand and smirking. "Your stock is fine now. You're welcome."
"Oh rub it in, Potions Master," Callahan rolled his eyes while Harry tilted his head.
"I thought we couldn't use magic on those," Harry said.
"You can't use magic on those," Callahan answered. "And I usually don't. This one has compiled a chemical effect study on them and won't share the blasted results."
"Why not?" Harry gave Snape a look.
"It's not considered legitimate," Snape answered, looking tired. "Muggle information sources aren't usually considered an acceptable resource in the magical potions community here. If I said the spell, I'd have to state how it works before it can be taught. When I say the chemical structure..." He shrugged.
"But why can't you show..." Harry looked at Callahan.
"Showing invented spells to others puts you in the league with Death Eaters and other militias," Callahan explained. "That's why inventions in the magical world are so rare, there's so much red tape and so much ignorance that many fields of research are blocked."
Harry looked at the evening paper's headline that mocked him despite hours to go until the election was over. Research blocked just because of the source. Beings not granted equality for years upon years because of what they were. How could the world that he loved, the place he had run to, the greatest escape after such a horrid life with his relatives, be so completely and utterly backwards in so many ways?
"Well, Light, you can get going," Callahan said, giving him a smile.
"All right. Thank you, sir," Harry said, waving and leaving. After stopping by to see his cousin and Bathilda, he went to the Ministry. It was a bit later now, almost ten, but Percy was still working.
"Did you see that stupid headline?" Harry demanded as he entered the office.
Percy looked up, "Hm? I haven't, I'm sorry."
"Look!" Harry gave him the paper as a chime went through the Ministry.
"The polls just closed," Percy mused. "Evening edition. Perhaps they have a time turner." He chuckled.
"Percy!" Harry said, trying to protest but rolling his eyes instead.
"If they do, I didn't issue it," Percy said, shrugging and reading. A knock on the door a few minutes later made Harry and Percy look up.
It was Robyn Driendl, the current Supreme Mugwump of the ICW, accompanied by a few Enforcers.
"Hello madam," Percy said, standing and shaking her hand politely. She smiled at Harry and looked at the newspaper before chuckling.
The Enforcers looked and began to mutter to each other, Harry hearing the words 'Dewey Defeats Truman repeat.' What did that mean?
Driendl explained it, "Surveying the small part of the population, stopping early, a tiny amount," she said, sighing. "For too long, people here have not counted all of the beings. And it showed. Perhaps you should turn on the Wireless, sir."
Percy did so with a wave of his wand and Harry could hear the shouting and cheering.
"Percy Ignatius Weasley has won the election! He is still the Minister of Magic for the next few years!"
Sheer, undiluted shock was on Percy's face. Harry couldn't laugh. He was stunned too. He had expected Shacklebolt to win and had been scared of Yaxley's winning, especially after the newspaper... but... he had hoped, oh yes, he had hoped Percy would win, but really, who would vote for someone who was so young?
Percy had won.
"Congratulations, Minister Weasley," Driendl said, smiling. "Your election had the highest voter turnout in centuries and you won by a landslide... and so did your reforms."
Percy just stared at her, stunned. "I-I won?" He was stunned.
"Yes." The Supreme Mugwump smiled. "You're not just a fill-in, not just a mistake, Minister. Your people do believe you are the best for this job. Your friends always have, obviously." She smiled at Harry before turning back to Percy, "And so have we. You are one of the best things to happen to this country. Perhaps now..." she smiled hearing what sounded like someone turning on fireworks on the Wireless. "Perhaps now you will believe it too. Good night, sir."
The two watched them leave and Harry looked at Percy, who was stunned.
"So... now what, Perce?" Harry asked.
The youngest Minister of Magic stared at him for a few seconds before shaking himself out of the shock.
"Now?" Percy asked, his blue eyes glittering. "Now we work twice as hard. Get a quill and a move on, we've got work to do."
Shaking his head, Harry did just that.