The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of man change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it.

~Thomas Paine


9.

Harry awoke at half past five the next morning as abruptly and completely as if somebody had yelled in his ear. For a few moments he lay immobile as the prospect of the hearing filled every tiny particle of his brain, then, not wanting to think about what might happen to Grace if her father didn't have a job, he leaped out of bed and put on his disguise before he got into his black trousers, white dress shirt and put on a black tie.

'Can't go wrong with simple black and white. Then you know you match at least right?' That had been what Dudley had said yesterday when Harry had asked what he should wear. Harry had looked around and everyone had seemed to think the reply was logical, so that was what he wore.

He made both Bathilda and himself some breakfast: bacon, eggs, toast and tea.

"Oh Gellert, do be careful today," Bathilda said as she walked him to the door.

"I will be," Harry answered. "I'm going to leave the door unlocked so that Lex can stop by, okay?"

"Oh, he's such a lovely young man, just like you." She gave him a smile and Harry left, looking over the front yard to make sure the house was orderly. That done, he went to the pub and laughed at the grumpy early-morning look Lex gave him.

"Would you mind making sure Bathilda has lunch later? I'm going to probably be at the Ministry all day," Harry explained.

"Oh, sure," Lex agreed easily. "Let me know how it goes."

"Sure," Harry said. He turned to the fireplace and tossed in the Floo Powder, "Ministry of Magic!" He called clearly, stepping through.

He was soon standing at one end of a very long and splendid hall with a highly polished, dark wood floor. The peacock blue ceiling was inlaid with gleaming golden symbols that kept moving and changing like some enormous heavenly notice board. The walls on each side were paneled in shiny dark wood and had many gilded fireplaces set into them. Every few seconds a witch or wizard would emerge from one of the left-hand fireplaces with a soft whoosh. On the right-hand side, short queues of wizards were forming before each fireplace, waiting to depart.

Halfway down the hall was a fountain. A group of golden statues, larger than life-size, stood in the middle of a circular pool. Tallest of them all was a noble-looking wizard with his wand pointing straight up in the air. Grouped around him were a beautiful witch, a centaur, a goblin and a house-elf. The last three were all looking adoringly up at the witch and wizard. Glittering jets of water were flying from the ends of their wands, the point of the centaur's arrow, the tip of the goblin's hat and each of the house-elf's ears, so that the tinkling hiss of falling water was added to the pops and cracks of the Apparators and the clatter of footsteps as hundreds of witches and wizards, most of whom were wearing glum, early-morning looks, strode towards a set of golden gates at the far end of the hall.

Someone was waiting for Harry though, looking nervously at the Daily Prophet he held as he did so.

"Hey Percy," Harry said, making him turn and smile, obviously relieved.

"Hey Light," Percy said, looking at his watch and at Harry. "You're early. Did you eat?"

"Yeah, Bathilda and I ate already. Did you?"

Percy nodded, "We can wait in my office, come on." They joined the throng, winding their way between the Ministry workers, some of whom were carrying tottering piles of parchment, others battered briefcases; still others were reading the Daily Prophet while they walked. As they passed the fountain Harry saw silver Sickles and bronze Knuts glinting up at him from the bottom of the pool. A small smudged sign beside it read:

ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE FOUNTAIN OF MAGICAL BRETHREN WILL BE GIVEN TO ST. MUNGO'S HOSPITAL FOR MAGICAL MALADIES AND INJURIES.

They walked to the lifts and soon were in a small, cluttered, but neat, office. "Junior Undersecretary to the Minister," Harry read on the sign on the door. "So what do you do, exactly?"

"Mainly I feel like an errand boy," Percy admitted. "I act as a Court Scribe sometimes and bring communications to the other departments, things like that. I've offered to do paperwork, there's a huge backlog of it. I almost got into trouble because of that."

"Why?" Harry inquired, curious.

A knock on the door and both of them turned and glanced at their watches. "Hearing doesn't begin yet," Percy murmured, opening the door.

Harry barely managed to bite his tongue. Mr. Weasley, Percy's father, stood there. "The work from last week," he said, not looking at either boy and left before either could comment.

"Er..." Harry tilted his head and raised an eyebrow.

Percy tightened his grip on the papers, "My... father. Sorry about that." He went to begin working a bit.

"Did something happen?" Harry asked, genuinely curious.

"We had a fight a few weeks ago," said Percy quietly. "I went home and told my family that I had been promoted."

Harry knew perfectly well that Percy was highly ambitious, but his impression was that Percy had not made a great success of his first job at the Ministry of Magic. Percy had committed the fairly large oversight of failing to notice that his boss was being controlled by Lord Voldemort (not that the Ministry had believed it - they all thought Mr. Crouch had gone mad).

"Really?"

Percy nodded, "Everyone was surprised because I got into a load of trouble about my former supervisor, there was an inquiry and everything. They claimed I ought to have realized was going insane and informed a superior. I got out of the inquiry by proving I had done so."

"You did?" Harry was surprised, "I would've thought you would've liked being in charge.".

"I won't deny that," Percy said, "But there are rules for a reason. I filed the motions and everything with Mr. Crouch's higher ups, which would be the Minister himself. Apparently the backlog of papers is so large that it wasn't seen or found until I showed that I had a copy of the work. And to think, people tease me for being so detail oriented." He gave a wan smile, "After they discovered that I had not only run the department but still did everything by the book, the Minister apologized and offered me this position."

"That's good," Harry said, imagining Mrs. Weasley was happy that one of her sons was in the Ministry. "So what did your family say? A celebration was in order, right?"

"I wish." Percy shook his head. "My father feels that the Minister only wants me in his office because he wants to use me to spy on the family - and Dumbledore."

Harry let out a low whistle and just stared at Percy, who was blinking rapidly and not meeting Harry's eyes. In fact, he seemed to find the ceiling quite interesting.

"Bet you loved that."

Percy laughed in a hollow sort of way. "I'm ashamed now, but I went completely berserk and said things that... well, they're true, but you still don't want to say them."

"... If you don't mind..."

"I said how I've been having to struggle against my father's lousy reputation ever since I joined the Ministry and that he's got no ambition and that's why we've always been... not exactly well-off. I even called him an idiot for running around with Dumbledore, that Dumbledore was heading for big trouble and Dad was going to go down with him, and that I knew where my loyalty lay and it was with the Ministry."

Harry wanted to have a fit but kept his silence, which was good; it seemed that Percy had been keeping this all bottled up and couldn't stop.

"If Mum and Dad were going to become traitors to the Ministry I was going to make sure everyone knew I didn't belong to their family any more. And I packed my bags the same night and left. I'm living here in London now."

That made no sense to Harry. "But why on earth would anyone think you were some sort of spy?"

Percy sighed, looking tired, "Dumbledore's name is mud these days, Light. A lot of people think he's just making trouble saying You-Know-Who's back. Because of that, the Minister has made it clear that anyone who's in league with Dumbledore can clear out their desks. My father... everyone knows he's friendly with Dumbledore, and they've always thought Dad's a bit of a weirdo because of his Muggle obsession."

They were silent for a bit before Harry said slowly, "I don't understand something."

"Hm?"

"Your mum and dad wouldn't risk everything without proof."

"They believe Harry Potter," Percy said, looking irritated now. "The only evidence is his word and they believe it even though the newspapers have shown that he isn't what they think."

Harry repressed the urge to complain, remembering the news articles. He had spoken with a few people about this before, after all. "My friends and I talked about it before, the whole thing with You-Know-Who and all of that. We ended up remembering how the Ministry freaked about Sirius Black escaping a few years ago."

"People kept thi-" Percy began but he stopped, realizing what he was going to say.

"Go on," Harry said, giving him a smile. "It's just us here and I'll keep quiet."

"... People kept thinking he would make You-Know-Who return, that he'd try to kill Harry Potter and bring back You-Know-Who." Percy drummed his fingers. "I think I can see where you're going with it. If we thought You-Know-Who was a threat because of one prisoner, why not give Dumbledore benefit of the doubt and at least prepare, just in case?"

Harry nodded.

"I didn't think about it that way," Percy admitted quietly, looking at the ceiling.

"If you want peace, then prepare for war," Harry muttered, looking down. "It sucks but I guess there's a weird truth to it."

"We can worry about it later," Percy muttered. "Right now, it's time for us to head downstairs."

They got off a lift at the Department of Mysteries and they walked up a corridor that was quite different from those above. The walls were bare; there were no windows and no doors apart from a plain black one set at the very end of the corridor. Harry expected them to go through it, but instead Percy brought him to the left, where there was an opening leading to a flight of steps.

"Down here, the lift doesn't even come down this far."

They reached the bottom of the steps and ran along yet another corridor, which bore a great resemblance to the one that led to Snape's dungeon at Hogwarts, with rough stone walls and torches in brackets. The doors they passed here were heavy wooden ones with iron bolts and keyholes.

"Courtroom Ten, I think it is... ah, here we are."

Percy stopped outside a grimy dark door with an immense iron lock, swallowed hard, turned the heavy iron door handle and, after glancing at Harry who nodded, they stepped inside the courtroom.

Harry gasped; he could not help himself. The large dungeon he had entered was horribly familiar. He had not only seen it before, he had been here before. This was the place he had visited inside Dumbledore's Pensieve, the place where he had watched the Lestranges sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban.

The walls were made of dark stone, dimly lit by torches. Empty benches rose on either side of him, but ahead, in the highest benches of all, were many shadowy figures and other people entering the room behind them.

"Light, are you okay?" Percy asked, giving him a worried look.

"Yeah," Harry said, feeling like an idiot. He wasn't on trial here. "Hey, Percy?" He asked this as he looked at the Wizengamot. There were about fifty of them, all, as far as he could see, wearing plum-colored robes with an

elaborately worked silver W on the left-hand side of the chest.

Madam Bones was sitting in the center. On her right was another person, but the person was sitting so far back on the bench that the face was in shadow.

"Hm?" asked Percy as he led the way to the very end of the front bench.

"How are the members of the Wizengamot selected?"

Percy thought for a minute before he finally said, "The selection process... it's a bit unclear, but the Minister has some control over selection or deselection. I do know a lot of the older bloodlines have seats on the Wizengamot too. Why?"

"Just that all the actions against werewolves are passed and sanctioned by the Wizengamot. Figured I can learn more about the source," Harry said, looking around.

The person to the right of Madam Bones leaned forward so that Harry saw her.

Umbridge.

That large, pale toad, right down to the little black velvet bow perched on top of her short curly hair put him in mind of a large fly she was about to catch on a long sticky tongue.

The witch spoke in her usual annoying fluttery, girlish, high-pitched voice "I'm sure I must have misunderstood who was allowed here," she said, with a simper that left her big, round eyes as cold as ever. "So silly of me. But it sounded for a teensy moment as though you were actually thinking you could stay up here." She gave a silvery laugh that made the hairs on the back of Harry's neck stand up.

Madam Bones turned at the sound of Umbridge's laugh and saw Harry, sitting politely and quietly next to Percy.

"The boy is allowed here," Madam Bones said simply. "He is an Ambassador."

Umbridge didn't look pleased about that fact, but Harry noticed that Percy seemed relieved. Harry ignored the toad and turned back to Percy, "How long do you think we'll be here?"

"I don't think it will take too long," Percy confirmed. "Trials are usually pretty brief and concise. The accused may present witnesses or have a third-party with legal knowledge speak his behalf of a defendant, but that's rare."

They had been talking in low voices and Harry noticed the courtroom was filling up with more and more people. He felt a little nervous even though he wasn't the one on trial.

Harry glanced over at the mess of people-a ton of reporters were writing, photographers were there, people from the Wizarding Wireless Network were talking into microphones... it was very hectic indeed, and louder than Harry had thought now that he was listening.

"-curious if these charges may have anything to do with the arrests of Mr. Oliver Crabbe or Mr. Joshua Goyle-"

"-some believe this may be related to the slander of Albus Dumbledore-"

Harry looked over to the center of the courtroom; Fudge looked very nervous and alone. Harry could see Mrs. Fudge in the crowd of people, her eyes only on her husband.

He had wanted Fudge taken down a few pegs, yeah, but not... not like this. He felt almost petty now for having wanted revenge.

Harry's attention focused on Madam Bones as the trial began. Percy had been right; they were pretty brief with the summary of the crimes: three counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of slander, one count of extortion, bribery...

Fudge didn't bother to protest the crimes-none of them were worthy of Azkaban, thank goodness for small favors, but they were enough to get him impeached.

The verdict was read before lunch and Madam Bones announced after that Dolores Jane Umbridge would be on the stand next to make sure she was 'qualified for the job of Minister.' Fudge would be impeached, no longer the Minister of Magic, but he would not be put into prison.

Harry was still surprised that the entire Wizengamot had agreed to this unanimously. He had a sinking suspicion that the people up there were mainly sheep and would follow whatever the person they respected most was doing. Madam Bones had voted it so they did.

It made him hope he would never have a trial in front of them.

Percy and Harry ate lunch in Percy's office, neither really looking forward to the afternoon session. Both were eating fish and chips.

"How come magical trials are so much faster than Muggle ones?" Harry asked, biting into a chip.

"Hm..." Percy looked thoughtful, his blue eyes tired behind his horn-rimmed glasses. "Well, you saw that we don't have lawyers like the Muggles do. Tying up the law here is more difficult."

"And the paperwork?" Harry inquired.

"Accio files about the fire-breathing chicken," Percy said, and a folder quickly zoomed into his hand.

"Oh," Harry said, thinking about it. That did eliminate a lot of work of combing through things, didn't it? And without the lawyers that knew laws, with most people knowing the consequences... "You might glare at me, but I really hope Umbridge isn't found eligible."

"And you might glare at me, but I hope she is," Percy said nervously. "If she's not eligible, then..." He looked away.

"I don't understand," Harry said, thinking. "Wouldn't Madam Bones or someone be next?"

"In a time of war, Rufus Scrimgeour would probably be the most popular," Percy said, thinking. "Honestly, if all of the rumors are right... if You-Know-Who is really back and all of that... I'd nominate him. He's the Head of the Aurors, for goodness sakes..."

"So why would you be put in? Isn't the Minister an elected position?"

"Usually," Percy confirmed. "But in cases like this, there's a chain of command. Madam Umbridge would be next in line. After her... it'd be me. It's such a formality that I honestly don't believe that it's ever been done before, to be honest."

"Well, you can claim you think that it's a time of war and get Scrimgeour in," Harry said, shrugging.

"You're not understanding, Light," Percy said, looking nervous. "Right now there isn't a war. The Wizengamot has to go based on now not what I will declare. And right now..." He sighed and put his head in his hands, "I'm being ridiculous."

"I don't think you are," Harry said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I think you're just being prepared. But honestly, you can't be worse than some of the Ministers that have been in the past, right? And if you're Minister, you can catch up on that paperwork to make sure other people like you don't get put into inquiries for doing their job right."

Percy gave a weak smile, "I guess so. Paperwork... it will follow me the rest of my life, I think."

"Hey, if I can be an ambassador, you can be Minister."

"Let's not move too fast," Percy said, rolling his eyes. "Though you know... truth be told, I think Fudge looked a little relieved."

"I think so too," Harry admitted. He grinned, "I know Mrs. Fudge definitely did."

"She did. I hope they get brought closer as a family from this." Percy seemed to realize what he said and sighed, "Family..."

"Hey, a family without a black sheep is not a typical family," Harry said helpfully, feeling bad. He had never imagined that, of all the Weasleys, he'd end up hanging out with Percy.

"And I'm the black sheep?" He gave a rueful smile, "Perhaps that might just where I'm supposed to be. Come on."

The two left his office and returned to Courtroom Ten for the afternoon session. Umbridge was already sitting in the chair when they entered.

Madam Bones looked up at them, obviously not really enjoying herself, and beckoned them over. Percy and Harry approached the bench.

"Percy, I don't want you to panic, but..." They turned, seeing people milling around. A glare from Madam Bones sent the reporters and would-be listeners scurrying away. "Ugh, I hate these kinds of trials..."

Harry could see why. It reminded him very much of Dumbledore's pensieve when he had seen Ludo Bagman's trial.

"I need a pensieve," Harry muttered to himself, thinking about it. He had far too many thoughts in his head, and he could do with one.

Madam Bones heard him and chuckled, "I think they're sold at Moribund's in Knockturn Alley. You'll have to say I sent you, he keeps to himself and won't open to people he doesn't know or weren't sent to him."

Harry was surprised that the Head of Magical Law Enforcement would go to Knockturn Alley. She must have seen the look on his face because she laughed, "It's a place that specialises in objects that have curious and strong magical properties, Light. I won't say I approve of all the businesses there, but Moribund's is decent."

"I'll have to check them out," Harry said thoughtfully, thinking that he might actually get himself a pensieve, if only to keep his thoughts in order and help him out. It certainly seemed to help Dumbledore!

"You don't want me to panic?" Percy said, as pale as milk. Harry reached a steadying hand on Percy's shoulder.

Madam Bones looked around and murmured, "You'll see. Just don't get your hopes up that you'll be passed over. Just thought I'd give you a fair warning."

Harry felt nervous. What crimes, besides being an utter... well, that wasn't a nice word. He'd just settle for toad... what crime besides being a miserable person was Umbridge able to be convicted for? Madam Bones hadn't even looked this worried with Fudge's trial!

"Take a seat boys," Madam Bones said gently. "And we'll begin."

Harry steered Percy to their bench and they sat, Percy looking at Harry worriedly.

Harry, on the other hand, was glaring at one of the reporters that suddenly took an interest in Umbridge. "It's cool, Perce."

"Right..."

"They need unanimous support, remember?" Harry said quietly.

"Let us begin." Madam Bones's voice rang through the entire courtroom and all was silent, a far cry from the noisy room of a few seconds before.

The charges, much to Harry's surprise, were: numerous counts of bribery, three counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of slander, one count of extortion, unlawful use of Ministry resources-

"Hem, hem," Umbridge coughed. "If I may?"

Madam Bones just raised an eyebrow and looked at her.

"Where is the proof of these charges?"

"There are documents of the counts of bribery-"

"Those are campaign documents."

Harry's stomach tightened. He glanced at Percy, who seemed just as surprised. That wasn't how trials were supposed to go, not at all...

"You allege that these bonuses and undocumented trails are in fact, perfectly legal?" Madam Bones asked, looking incredulous.

"Yes," Umbridge said. "There's documents about them and their legality. Here." She produced a folder.

Someone that Harry hadn't seen took the bright pink folder from Umbridge and gave it to Madam Bones, who looked through it intently. "It seems that these are in order though the timing they were given is highly questionable."

Whispers through the crowd and some people looked furious. Harry could hear the whispers about loopholes in the system...

Madam Bones moved on, "The next charge is obstruction of justice-"

"My then-superior had given me an order, Madam Bones, and you did not contest it. Also, it was not obstruction seeing as they are in Azkaban awaiting trial."

Harry's hands clenched into fists. He didn't like this woman at all. If she became the Minister of Magic, Harry was going to seriously contemplate heading to another country.

It went this way until the last count: unlawful use of Ministry resources.

"I see no proof to that accusation," Umbridge simpered.

Silence for a few seconds and Madam Bones turned, looking over at Harry and Percy.

Slowly-oh, ever so slowly- Percy stood, making Harry look at him with surprise. He looked like a child about to take a medicinal potion, like this was something that he knew he had to do but didn't want to.

Only Harry saw the faint tremor pass through his hand.

"The Chair recognizes Percy Ignatius Weasley, Junior Undersecretary to the Minister," said Madam Bones.

Percy nodded and looked at Umbridge. "If it is true that the Dementors are taking orders only from the Ministry of Magic, and it is also true that two Dementors attacked Harry Potter and the creature that had been believed to be his cousin on the second of August then it follows logically that somebody at the Ministry ordered the attacks, Madam. The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Madam Bones, made a request of me to look into the matter more. There are only three people who have authority over the Dementors, Madam... and only one of the three people was at Azkaban that day. And that one person was you, Madam Umbridge."

Whispers broke out and gasps. Umbridge suddenly looked furious and caught off guard.

"I received the paperwork that Mr. Percy Weasley had dropped off to me," Madam Bones said, as Percy sat once more. "You have indeed misused Ministry resources because you were using them in a conspiracy to commit murder!"

There were no more whispers now, only bated silence.

"And that, Madam Umbridge, is a crime worthy of Azkaban!" Madam Bones thundered. "You conspired to kill one Harry James Potter, of number four, Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey who currently is missing!"

"I-I-I..." Umbridge had no words but the glares and sudden chains grabbing her spoke volumes. "I am Dolores Umbridge!" said Umbridge in a high-pitched, terrified voice. "Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic! You cannot-!"

"Not even the Minister of Magic is above the law Madam Umbridge." Madam Bones looked tired and said, "Take her away to Azkaban. We will reconvene tomorrow to see if Percy Ignatius Weasley is eligible for the post of Minister of Magic."

Harry could see Percy was beyond pale, giving even a ghost competition. Without thinking, he stood between Percy and the various reporters, cameras, and microphones, hearing people trying to get information out of them. Harry managed to drag Percy out of there and get him to a fireplace.

He had acted without thinking, but soon they were both at Godric's Hollow. "Come on," Harry said simply, dragging Percy with him. He had never seen the older boy-no, man, Percy was an adult and everything, but still, Harry had never seen him so flustered and disturbed.

He sat side by side with Percy, their shoulders resting against each other's. Harry knew from the year before that sometimes just knowing that someone was there, not letting you spend that time where you would probably just break down alone, helped.

They watched the sky lighten in mostly silence that night, until they used the floo network to go to Percy's flat after Harry had gotten ready for the day. This time he settled for black trousers and a dark blue dress shirt, looking at himself. He looked presentable and soon, so did Percy, who was looking at himself in midnight blue robes.

"What would happen if I decided to not show?" He asked Harry miserably.

"Then Amelia would've been proven right in sending me," a voice said, making both Harry and Percy jump. Rufus Scrimgeour was standing in the fireplace. He limped over to Percy and placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Sometimes the best person to have power is the one that doesn't want it."

"And sometimes the best person is someone who knows what to do with it," Percy retorted, sighing. "I'm not... I'm too young, I don't know what I'm doing-"

"Who does?" Scrimgeour chuckled. "It's all guesswork. You'll figure it out as you go along. Now come on."

"Sir?" Harry noticed the newspaper in the man's other hand. "Is that..."

Percy looked at it and just groaned, covering his face.

Scrimgeour just glanced at it. "Yeah. That's the big thing."

Harry had seen the newspaper's headline and, big as it could possibly be, it said: MINISTER FUDGE AND SENIOR UNDERSECRETARY UMBRIDGE FOUND GUILTY, REMOVED FROM OFFICE-CHARGES INCLUDE CORRUPTION AND CONSPIRACY TO MURDER BOY-WHO-LIVED

"Lovely," Percy said, sighing. "Are you sure I have to go?"

"Yes," both Harry and Scrimgeour said, making Percy slowly nod and soon, the three were in the Ministry. And, all too soon to Harry, they were in Courtroom Ten. Percy looked beyond nervous as he sat in the chair, everyone looking at him. Harry gave him a smile and Percy nervously returned it.

They went over the inquiry from last year and Percy mentioned the multiple times he had reported Mr. Crouch's absences and his concerns-all properly documented. He went through the questions about the department he had worked at, mentioning, to Harry's surprise, that he spoke Gobbledegook, Mermish, and Troll. He had learned the languages during his time at Hogwarts and over the last year.

Silence ensued and Harry just stared at Madam Bones.

"Do you think you are deserving of the position of Minister of Magic, Mr. Weasley?"

"No," Percy said, and Harry could see the hope in his eyes when everyone began to whisper.

"Perhaps I should rephrase," Madam Bones said simply. "Who do you think is qualified for the position?"

"You," Percy said. "Or Rufus, but not me."

Surprised whispers broke out and Madam Bones gave a small, sad smile, "We are unable to take the position, Mr. Weasley. It was a condition we all knew of when you were offered the position."

Percy shook his head, looking like he wanted to deny what was coming, and though Madam Bones's voice was gentle, it did not lessen the blow.

"I ask now if any here disagrees with the appointing of Percy Ignatius Weasley as the new Minister of Magic."

Immediately, Percy raised his hand.

Madam Bones didn't know whether to look amused or sad. She finally said, with a ghost of a grin, "Besides Mr. Weasley, I meant."

Not a sound or movement was heard or made besides Percy looking all around the room, his eyes wide as he realized that nobody was going to object.

Harry didn't understand. He looked around and saw Rufus sitting near him. "Why? He's so young..." Harry didn't understand it.

"Because right now, the office is a joke," Rufus muttered softly. "Fudge and his administration made it look bad, especially with the slander. People don't care and figure that someone like Dumbledore will really have the power." The Head of the Aurors looked irritated and Harry wisely turned back around and said nothing.

Finally, Madam Bones spoke once more. "Then I now present the new Minister of Magic, Percy Ignatius Weasley!"

Cheers and clapping. Percy stood stiffly, pale and obviously stunned despite people having tried preparing him for it.

Harry managed to make his way over to him, and Percy just clung to Harry's shoulder as Harry got him through the crowd, shouting, "No questions, no comments!" Thankfully, Rufus lent him a hand and soon they got Percy to what would be his new office.

And then the new Minister of Magic just sat at his desk and cried.

Harry watched for a few seconds, wishing desperately to help but not having the faintest idea of how exactly to do it. "Come on, lad," Scrimgeour murmured. "Give him some time alone."

The two quietly left, managing to get rid of the remaining reporters and people clamoring to see the new and youngest ever Minister of Magic.

"I'm sure you have people waiting," Scrimgeour said simply. "When he's up to it, I'll get you."

"Thanks."

"Thank you." Scrimgeour looked Harry up and down and chuckled, "You took action when you didn't have to and acted fast. I really do think you'd make quite the Auror."

"With the company I keep?" Harry asked quietly, thinking about the view of his poor cousin and of his new guardian and of Sirius...

"You mean the 'Minister of Magic'?" Scrimgeour made the quote marks with his fingers and then shook his head, "Trust me, after Fudge it's not like he can mess it up much worse. He's only here for a few months, not like he can do much anyway. Stupid chain of command laws regarding peace time."

Harry said nothing for a few seconds-what was he supposed to say? Percy was young and Scrimgeour was right. Except...

Except in one summer he had formed a new identity. His cousin had taken over a huge werewolf clan. Fudge was gone.

Harry had seen first-hand how much could be done in a short amount of time when someone was determined.

Finally he settled for just saying, "Let me know when he comes out, please, if you don't mind sir?"

"I will."

Harry left, hoping that Percy wouldn't do something insane like hurt himself. It was late by the time he left the Ministry, but he had a stop to make while he was still in London.

A bit later, he left Knockturn Alley, looking proudly at the bag with a pensieve inside of it. He then used the fireplace inside of Borgin and Burkes to go to the werewolf settlement.

He entered a whirlwind of celebration.

"What..."

His cousin saw him and ran over, "She's gone! She's in Azkaban!"

Oh, of course. Umbridge! Harry couldn't help but laugh at the amusing reaction. He could see a feast waiting and Blades joined them, "Everyone is here, we all pooled in and had a last minute catering feast! Come on!"

Harry looked around and saw that his friend was right. There were people he had never seen before with his friends... Including one man that looked very much like Mrs. Weasley. He had the same warm brown eyes, the same flaming red hair and he smiled upon seeing Harry. "You must be Light. Harry and Mafalda speak of you often."

Sometimes he forgot that Tweak's name was Harry as well. It really was quite confusing.

"Dad!" Jinx groaned, making the others laugh. "I hate my name," she complained.

"I named you after my aunt," he protested. "It's a good name!"

She just looked at the others, who chuckled. Harry loaded up his plate and relaxed with his friends as the werewolves celebrated the demise of Dolores Umbridge.

Harry returned to Bathilda's with some food for her, utterly exhausted but in a good mood. She was, as most people were, sleeping at the time he returned.

There was a silvery goat waiting for him in the living room, along with Ariel. Harry just stared at them for a second before realizing the goat was a patronus. What...?

"Activated it to go off when you got in," the goat said in Aberforth's voice. "Sorry about the last minute, but it's better to throw people off. If you can meet us tomorrow around noon at the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade, that'd be good. If not, let me know."

Harry groaned and quickly returned to the settlement, telling his friends and getting the okay. He returned to Godric's Hollow and took the letter from Ariel, deciding to read it in the morning but he was woken up by Callahan the next day.

"Wake up kid," Callahan said, shaking him. "The others are all at Hogsmeade."

"What are you..." Harry yawned. "How..."

"Bathilda let me in," Callahan said, chuckling. "It's quarter to twelve-"

"WHAT?" Harry yelped, getting up and racing to get ready. He realized he was still holding the letter he had received last night. He put it on the bed.

"Can't Apparate, right?" Callahan seemed to be fighting not to laugh as Harry ran around like a chicken without a head.

"No," said Harry, throwing on a t-shirt. "I thought you had to be seventeen?"

"You do," said Callahan. "So you will need to hold on to my arm very tightly." He smiled as what he said sunk into Harry's head.

"Oh... side-along Apparation." Harry felt a bit nervous, "I've never... I've never done it before."

"No time like the present then," Callahan said. "One more thing." He looked over at the dark object that Harry and the others had found, and at Harry's cloak. "That thing is giving off a way dark vibe. Maybe one of the others could help?"

"Oh yeah, Professor Lupin was the best Defense teacher I had, and Moody was an Auror, one of them might know... thanks." Harry wrapped the ring in his Invisibility Cloak, knowing that his friends would be more inclined to believe he really was himself if he had it. He stared in surprise at the two objects and just shook his head. Two items from a legend were in his hands.

Harry took the letter from his bed as well, hoping that his request about information regarding the Conspirator's Hold had been answered. He looked at Callahan.

"Ready?" the man asked.

Harry nodded and gripped the proffered forearm.

"Very good," Callahan said. "Bathilda, dear, we're Apparating!"

"Be careful!" she called back.

Callahan looked at Harry, "Well, here we go."

Harry felt Callahan's arm twist away from him and redoubled his grip; the next thing he knew, everything went black; he was being pressed very hard from all directions; he could not breathe, there were iron bands tightening around his chest; his eyeballs were being forced back into his head; his eardrums were being pushed deeper into his skull and then —

He gulped great lungfuls of warm summer air and opened his streaming eyes. He felt as though he had just been forced through a very tight rubber tube. It was a few seconds before he realized that Godric's Hollow had vanished. He and Callahan were now standing outside a small inn. A battered wooden sign hung from a rusty bracket over the door, with a picture on it of a wild boar's severed head, leaking blood on to the white cloth around it. The sign creaked in the wind as they stood there.

His comprehension catching up with his senses, Harry realized that he had just Apparated for the first time in his life.

"Are you all right?" Callahan inquired, looking down at him solicitously. "The sensation does take some getting used to."

"I'm fine," said Harry, rubbing his ears, which felt as though they had left Bathilda's house rather reluctantly. "But I think I might prefer brooms…"

Callahan smiled and said, "This way." He indicated the building in front of them.

"Callahan?"

"Just Cal is fine, Light."

"Oh... er, Cal? Why couldn't we just Apparate directly in?"

"Because it would be quite as rude as kicking down the front door," Callahan explained. "Courtesy dictates that we offer fellow wizards the opportunity of denying us entry. In any case, most Wizarding dwellings are magically protected from unwanted Apparators. Now in we get." He opened the door and Harry entered.

It was not at all like the Three Broomsticks, whose large bar gave an impression of gleaming warmth and cleanliness. The Hog's Head bar comprised one small, dingy and very dirty room that smelled strongly of something that might have been goats. The bay windows were so encrusted with grime that very little daylight could permeate the room, which was lit instead with the stubs of candles sitting on rough wooden tables. The floor seemed at first glance to be compressed earth, though as Harry stepped on to it he realized that there was stone beneath what seemed to be the accumulated filth of centuries.

And then he saw everyone sitting around, looking at each other.

"That's the bloke that was with Percy!" Two voices, Fred and George, exclaimed simultaneously.

"Still think that was the end of the world, don't you?" George asked. "Percy as the Minister of Magic, Merlin save us all."

"I personally felt that it's just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe one of the signs of the end of the world. Has to be something else. I'll bet you he'll claim that horrible singing of his is him talking Mermish."

"Harry?" another voice exclaimed, obviously shocked. "But you're the boy that's in Diagon Alley sometimes!"

Harry turned and saw Fred and George Weasley gaping at him, Hermione staring at him.

"Hey guys," he managed to say before Hermione ran and hugged him tightly.

"Harry! Oh Harry, we were so worried!"

"Let him breathe Hermione!" Ron said, running over and looking Harry up and down. Harry winked and lifted up the magical headband. "Merlin's beard, mate! I never thought of that!"

"I don't believe Harry pulled one over on us!" Fred complained.

Harry took in everyone around the room as they talked. He felt a warm glow inside; these were the people he trusted the most, his friends and... and his family. He watched as Sirius talked with Lupin and Dudley about something, heard Grace, Ginny and Jinx debating something about some band they liked and they soon called Hermione back to the conversation. After hugging Harry again, she returned to the other girls. The twins, joined by Ron, were talking to Blades and Tweak, all about pranks and funny stories and Harry watched Callahan walk to Aberforth and Moody and begin talking.

This was what he had wanted, had hoped, that they'd get along. And they did. Harry waited for a brief second before remembering his letter. He took it out and sat quietly.

Hello again Light,

If you're damp even now, I highly suggest that you get thine self to a Healer immediately.

Harry chuckled, unable to help it.

I'm glad to hear that the beings are getting along. If that's one thing I don't miss, it's trying to make beings do just that. Though I must say, I like the council and peaceful approach better. Bonding over that instead of crimes is much better.

Yes, Harry agreed with that. Though thinking about it, having an army like most Dark Lords did probably meant a lot of recruitment. He had seen that first hand with the werewolves. Harry had never wondered how they would keep them in-line.

Regret... I have oceans of it without you joining me, young one. Your question makes me wonder who you are considering hiding from. I have said before I will not judge-how can I, when you know what I have done in my past? And so I will answer your question while reminding you to be cautious since other paths can lead to the dark.

The Conspirator's Hold... it is one of the things I was known for in my more... rebellious days. Albus and I invented it.

Harry's eyes widened. Dumbledore had helped make this spell?

In its original form, death was not needed to ensure secrecy. I added that onto the spell, which is the one that everyone knows now. I have always believed that magic depends on intent, and though I still do believe that, I shall not bore you with rambling on about it. It's enough that you're willing to write to a foolish old man.

I shall say that if your intentions are for no one to die, make sure you state it in the oath. Though be warned if you do that, all that someone trying to break your conspiracy will have to do is determine who the two Secret Keepers are before approaching the actual one.

Always believed that magic depended on intent? Harry wondered what that meant and knew he'd ask more about it in his next letter. He had never heard of that before.

Thank you for the nickname offer, but I will stick with my normal name. It's already enough that we look alike, if we have the same names then we'll really concern people, although I won't mind anyone thinking I look younger than my years... though I think you might pout at being called an old man, even if the old man in question is my brilliant, gorgeous and oh-so-humble self.

Harry just laughed, unable to help it.

I'm glad you will be attending a school, though I'm puzzled as to why it's not Hogwarts. My secondary school accepted late bloomers, we just had specific courses for them to catch up. Doesn't Hogwarts have such a program?

Well, take care and write more soon.

He had signed his name and Harry had finished reading just in time because Aberforth spoke, "All ready?"

"Yeah," Harry confirmed, putting the letter in his pocket. "I was just checking if the Conspirator's Hold has to require death and the source said it doesn't, that it depends on the magic's intent."

Aberforth thought for a minute before cursing, "I forgot about that. Stupid intentions... all right, that makes our lives a little easier at least. Dummy up people!"

Everyone gave him a look and grew silent. "So who are the Secret Keepers?" Harry asked into the silence.

"Aberforth is going to be the main one," Moody answered from the bar and his drink, which had a light blue mist extruding from his hip flask. "I'm going to be one of the red herrings. We figure people won't expect that."

Harry nodded thoughtfully.

"The other person-"

"I want to be it," Dudley said quietly, making everyone look at him.

"No," Callahan said immediately. "With this spell-"

"It doesn't have to kill," Aberforth said. "The intent-"

"No," the man repeated, looking stubborn. "You have enough to worry about and there's the potential threat of your body not having the magic to sustain it and your transformations."

Dudley looked at the ground and everyone looked like they wanted to protest, but Callahan was right. Harry noticed Lupin and Sirius were both staring at him with obvious surprise.

"I didn't think of that..." Dudley muttered.

Callahan just placed a hand on Dudley's shoulder and Harry went to his cousin. "Cuz, you've done more than your fair share," Harry said easily. "Let someone else get a go."

"You're my family, Light," Dudley said it quietly, looking at him. "My cousin. My pack. My blood. Nothing is more than my fair share."

Harry just hugged him, no words able to express his gratitude at the simple acceptance.

"... I'll do it," Ginny said quietly.

Everyone looked at her.

"What? You've lost your mind, that's-" Ron began hotly.

"Ginny and I were talking about different things," Sirius said quietly, making everyone look at him. "We thought, if Harry is fine with his normal self being associated with her, that she would supposedly date him."

Harry blushed and said hotly, "Discussing my love life?"

Sirius turned red and everyone looked away, nobody saying anything.

Finally, to Harry's surprise, it was Callahan that said simply, "If he's going to be you, that is a concern. You're a rebel right now, the Boy-Who-Lived, and some people will be drawn to that. The same applies for any person you may have been interested in before. If you had a clandestine affair-"

Hermione and Ron laughed, "Harry?"

"You'd be surprised," Callahan said with the air of someone that seemed to know from experience.

Dudley picked up on that and immediately asked, "Who did you have a clandestine affair with?"

"Never you mind," came the retort.

"Oh please don't tell me it was my mum," Blades groaned, putting his head on the table. "I'd never live it down..."

"It's not."

Harry made a horrified face, "It's not SNAPE is it?" Sure the man was human and everything, and had been okay to Harry when disguised, but it was still Snape! He just couldn't live with it if his guardian and Snape... no, no, and NO!

Sirius made the same face of horror and looked at Callahan, who looked just as stunned, "Good Lord no! Will you people stop being so nosy?"

"But we're curious!" Grace said, thinking. "C'mon, you're among friends! Is it my mum? Dad did ignore her for a while, you never know."

"No," Callahan said through gritted teeth. "It was not." The look that Callahan gave them was so stern that they couldn't help but laugh.

"If you lot are finished bothering the poor man," Lupin interrupted. "Ginny, this is too risky even without the death clause. Your mother-"

"Will understand that sometimes we have to take risks," Ginny interrupted. "Nobody would expect me. Ron and Hermione maybe, but me? And who'd expect you adults to go with it? It's the perfect solution!"

"But what if we screw up the spell?" Moody argued back. "We can't put your life at risk, missy."

"That's just it though," Ginny retorted hotly. "It's my life, isn't it? What's the difference if a Death Eater or Voldemort kills you or me or this when both are very possible ways to go?"

Moody looked as if he were about to argue, but Aberforth said, "Fine."

"FINE?" The twins and Ron demanded, looking at him with fury.

"Yes," the man answered. "You're upset at the Order for keeping you out of things but at least you've got people to rely on. If Sirius is going to play the role of Harry and he has a girlfriend, people won't be surprised they spend so much time alone. That will take some of the stress away, seeing as the people Harry will be with the most will know it's not him. And as Ginny said, nobody will be expecting us to use her as one of the Secret Keepers."

Harry looked at her and she gave him a grin. "Thank you," Harry said quietly. He looked at Aberforth, "But we still don't know how he's going to disguise himself as me..."

Aberforth looked at Moody, who said, "It's... well, we're going to use an old, old technique. Muggle world's got something like it, I think, basically called witness protection. Well, this is a bit like that." Perhaps the ex-Auror saw the confusion on Harry's face because he said, "Think of it as a temporary blood clone."

"Isn't that like the Polyjuice Potion then?" Dudley asked, looking concerned.

Moody shook his head, "It's similar to a blood adoption. When we used it, the family that the person was hiding with would all give a bit of their blood and the person would have their looks blended together. Sirius will look like a clone because Harry's blood will be the only blood present. Like I said, it's an old technique, nobody really uses it much anymore."

Harry nodded, "So the disguise will... need some of my blood?"

"Only if you're willing to give it, a prick of your finger should be fine."

Harry clearly remembered the last time someone had used his blood for a spell. It was a far cry from this, and he nodded and soon his blood was dripping into a little odd potion. "Here you go, Sirius."

Sirius looked at it and made a face before taking a drink. And as everyone watched, he changed into a skinny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who had the pinched, slightly unhealthy look of someone who has grown a lot in a short space of time. His robes changed as well, into a different outfit: jeans that were torn and dirty, his T-shirt baggy and faded, and the soles of his trainers were peeling away from the uppers. Sirius lifted the fringe of jet-black hair over his forehead and felt it, but Harry could see the lightning bolt scar.

He took off the glasses and squinted, "Harry, your eyesight really is awful."

Wow. Even his voice...

"That's freaky," Ron whispered in awe. "Whoa... Sirius-"

"You can't call him that," Harry said, realizing this.

Sirius made a face, which was quite disturbing to Harry since it seemed that his reflection made it. "That's going to be weird, people calling me Harry and remembering to respond."

"Moody, when does this fade?" Lupin asked, looking back and forth between Harry and Sirius with obvious shock.

"Honestly, whenever we do this," and Moody indicated everyone in the room, "again."

"Witness protection," Tweak muttered. "All of us gathering like this again is unlikely unless we plan for it."

"Exactly," Moody said, giving him a grin. "All right. Let's do what we came here for."

Everyone nodded, Harry looking at Sirius, "Where are you going to tell them you were?"

"Forest of Dean," Hermione supplied. "My parents are camping there again, so they'll write to me saying they ran into Harry."

"They'll be using Hedwig," Sirius said, forestalling the next question.

"Is that all?" Aberforth asked, looking over everyone.

Everyone nodded, including Harry.

Well, except for one person.

"No. Light, your things." Callahan reminded him.

"Oh right!" Harry went to his cloak and took out the ring. Everyone raised an eyebrow at it and Grace shuddered.

"Anyone else have the urge to wear it?" Jinx asked quietly.

"Yeah," Blades muttered. "I think that's what it's supposed to do."

"What is it?" Ginny asked, looking green. Sirius rubbed her back, looking just as queasy.

"Dark, whatever it is," he muttered. "Where did you find that?"

"It's kind of a long story," Harry muttered, looking down. "But we found it in a place called Little Hangleton."

Lupin muttered a few spells and what seemed like alarms kept going off after each one. "Definitely Dark and dangerous," he muttered. "What..."

Moody muttered a few things too and shook his head. "That's all I'm getting too."

Aberforth looked over and said, in his usual grumpy way, "You lot are idiots."

"Do you know what it is?" Sirius asked, still disturbing Harry a bit by how identical he was. He really was a clone...

"Foul thing. It's called a horcrux, foulest act of dark magic you can imagine."

"A horcrux, really?" Callahan raised an eyebrow. "Ugh. That'd explain a bit."

"You know what it is?" Harry and Dudley asked simultaneously.

"Can you share?" Grace asked, giving the ring a dirty look. "It tried to make me wear it..."

"Good thing you didn't," Callahan said, looking at her with obvious worry. "Talking about this subject is a bit... taboo." He shut his eyes, looking so much older and more tired that Harry felt bad for him. "Have you heard of a book called Secrets of the Darkest Art?"

Sirius looked sick, "Yeah. It's in my family's library. I've seen it but never took a look. But just it being there, I can tell you that it's not good. Why?"

"Good thing for your small amount of sanity then, Black." Callahan said, reminding Harry very much of Snape.

"Oh really? And you had so much of it to begin with?" Sirius said back, giving Callahan a look.

"That's enough," Lupin said it quietly, but the other two both stopped.

"I'm sorry. That... was childish of me."

"... Yeah, same here. What were you saying about the book?"

"It's a horrible book, really awful, full of evil magic…" Callahan repressed a shudder, "Regulus was the one that lent it to me. I didn't know you still had it." He took a breath, "But you asked a question. A horcrux is a very powerful object that a Dark wizard or witch has hidden a fragment of his or her soul for the purpose of attaining immortality. In layman's terms..."

"That thing is part of someone's soul?" George asked, looking sick.

Callahan nodded and looked at Grace, "That's why it's good you didn't wear it. It might have... it would have tried to take you over. Small ways at first, like possessing you, but given enough time, it would take over you. Horcruxes are dangerous and powerful."

Ginny had turned pale by this point and whispered in realization, "Possesses you... pour a bit of your soul in..."

"Like Tom Riddle's diary," Harry said, looking at her and she nodded.

"What?" Everyone who didn't know asked.

"It... it was a diary I was writing to when I was eleven," Ginny explained. "It... it had part of Tom Riddle in it... and I... I did things, I couldn't stop him..."

Ron wrapped his arm around his sister, a protective embrace."It wasn't you, Gin, remember? You were possessed. It wasn't you."

Harry nodded, still remembering what had happened in the Chamber of Secrets. "Tom Riddle was the wizard that would become Voldemort."

Utter silence for a few seconds.

"But how'd he get it in there?" Fred asked. "I always thought that souls were supposed to be good, that's why the Dementors are such a big deal, right?"

Ron made a face and looked dubiously at the ring, "That doesn't feel very good..."

"And Tom Riddle's diary certainly wasn't," Ginny agreed.

"Cause it isn't," Aberforth said. "Murder. You do some ritual and split your soul by committing murder. That's how you make a horcrux."

"Immortality," Hermione said slowly, making everyone look at her as she stared at the ring. "You don't think... you don't think that maybe... Y-You-Know-Who..."

Tweak shuddered, "Oh hell..."

"What?" Harry asked.

Moody spoke up gruffly, "Hermione's right. There is one wizard that's looked for immortality and is dark. Voldemort."

Grace and Harry shared a look of horror as they looked at the ring. Did Voldemort know about the hallows? No, Harry was sure he couldn't have; a chance to be called the Master of Death? Harry highly doubted the dark wizard had an inkling about it.

He sure hoped Voldemort didn't know anything about them being real. That wouldn't be good at all. But it could explain why Voldemort had gone after his family that night. If he had been after the Invisibility Cloak...

"What can destroy it, then?" Blades inquired quietly, his voice jostling Harry from his thoughts.

Everyone looked at Callahan, who sighed, "Remorse."

"Scratch that one," Aberforth said gruffly, making everyone in the room chuckle.

"I know there's other ways to destroy them, but they're supposed to be difficult," Callahan said, trying to remember.

"We've got to cut this short guys," Fred interrupted, suddenly looking worried.

George nodded, "Mum's hunting for us. The alert system is yellow." He held up what looked like a bracelet with crystal beads that were slowly turning from green to yellow.

"Damn," Moody muttered, electric blue eye rolling around wildly. "Hurry it up. Nobody's remotely near."

"Fine, let's get a move on," Aberforth muttered. "Listen, are you sure about this?" This was said to Ginny.

She nodded, looking determined. Moody stood next to her and Aberforth chanted in some strange language that Harry didn't know. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't ugly and yet, in a way, it was both. It was alien—that was the best description. It made him think of swamps and caves, of children making vows and adults keeping secrets, of loyalty and the price of it...

Harry found himself speaking along with it and not realizing it, but he saw that everyone was too, their eyes wide. And the magic faded, but Harry's spine still tingled with a secret sort of magic.

"Whoa," Dudley said, looking over at him.

"You can say that again," Blades said, grinning.

"Whoooooa," Dudley repeated, making everyone laugh.

"All right, let's go," Fred said briskly, all business. "Ginny, you okay?"

"Yeah," she confirmed.

Hermione hugged Harry, "Take care of yourself. Don't forget to write!"

"I will," Harry said, hugging both her and Ron. "Be careful."

"You too." They left with the twins,Ginny, Moody, and Lupin.

"We'd better get a move on ourselves," Callahan grumbled, looking at Sirius.

"What?" Harry asked, surprised.

"Sev would use Veritaserum and Legilimency in half a heartbeat," Callahan said.

Sirius made a face, "We're really going to go to the Forest of Dean, since I know a little bit of Occlumency and I'm not one of the Secret Keepers."

"The Conspirator's Hold will knock him unconscious due to our intent bit," Aberforth said from the bar area. "The Occlumency should just help a bit. And the Veritaserum, it'd be too suspicious if he Vanished it."

"And even if it's force fed it'll help as opposed to Vanishing it," Sirius said, still not looking pleased. Harry bit back a laugh; Callahan looked just as displeased. "Take care, Harry."

"You too... Harry." Harry grinned at his godfather.

Sirius just laughed and both he and Callahan were gone.

Everyone left in the pub looked at each other, not really sure about what to do now.

Dudley stepped forward. "Thank you, sir, for... for everything," Dudley said to Aberforth. "I don't know how to-"

"Bah," the man waved his hand impatiently as he wiped the bar with a filthy rag. "Go on, get out of here would you? I'll never get done here if you keep drooling all over me."

Dudley chuckled and Harry just shook his head, amused. Blades smirked, "Thanks given and received. C'mon guys, let's go."

They left using the fireplace, Harry gathering up the horcrux reluctantly.

He knew it was a hallow, the stone anyway, but then why did Voldemort turn the ring into a horcrux?

"I don't know," Dudley answered when Harry posed this question to him as they looked over the creek-turned-lake.

"Light?" A voice asked, making them turn. It was Grace. "Someone's asking for you, by the entrance... Scrimgeour."

Harry raised an eyebrow and looked at Dudley, who nodded. He found the Head of the Aurors standing there waiting for him.

"Hello..." Harry said, unsure about what to do.

"I was wondering if you'd mind helping me. I said I'd get you in case anything happened, but..." Scrimgeour shook his head, "Percy has yet to leave his office. Hasn't even Apparated. I'm... well... you're his friend, I figured you might know what to do. The media is clamoring to talk to him, departments are trying to get a hold of him and he hasn't even acknowledged my knocking." Scrimgeour looked annoyed, "I've got other things to do besides babysit."

Harry rubbed his eyes. He felt exhausted and had a feeling his new pensieve was going to be used quite a fair bit. Friend? He was Percy's friend? He hardly knew Light and well, though he had known Harry Potter for a few years, his word hadn't been enough for Percy!

Harry forced the bitterness away. None of that mattered right now, did it? If he could help, then it was in everyone's best interest for him to do so.

"I'll give it a shot," Harry said quietly. "Lead the way."

As he followed, his brain raced with so many thoughts chasing each other that he hoped his pensieve wouldn't overflow when he got to it. Scrimgeour brought him to the Minister's office and knocked.

Nothing. The Auror shrugged.

Harry's temper flared. He hadn't asked for a lot of the stuff that happened to him in life either, and he didn't hide and sulk about it! He slammed on the door, harder than Scrimgeour had, and had just started kicking it when it opened.

Percy stood there, looking utterly exhausted, and he yelped as Harry's foot connected with his shin. "What is it?" He asked, holding what looked like headphones. "I was working and had on a station I liked on the WWN, I'm sorry. Did you need me for something? If it's not important, can it wait because I have a ton of catch up stuff to do."

Harry looked over his shoulder and just gaped. Scrimgeour was doing the same.

The entire office, which had been clean the day before, was utterly covered in parchment and reports and folders.

"Bloody hell," both Harry and Scrimgeour said in awe.