Chapter 44

(Ministry)

Harry moved slowly into the crowded Wizengamot chamber, his entire body felt like it wanted to fall to pieces. He had taken the strongest numbing potion Madam Pomfrey had believed to be safe and yet, the pain was still very much being felt as he moved.

Xander and Jenny walked in front of him while Fleur and Lily, in her disguise as Rose, walked beside him keeping close just in case she needed him and behind them were Amelia and Marcus. He quickly noted Dumbledore at the front of the chamber with some of the Order members around him, he also took note McGonagall was off to the side of the group. He felt Lily tense up as she noted Dumbledore was in attendance and quickly gave her hand a squeeze. Thankful she was on his left side. It had the desired effect and Lily shook off her desire to kill Dumbledore right then and there, her anger and hatred at the old fool was reaching the boiling point after everything she had learned and his hand in the injuring of her son.

Harry stopped as everyone seemed to take note of his presence, as he looked around he took note of Draco Malfoy's face in the crowd. His entire face was one of extreme hatred and his cold eyes were devoid of any other emotion, it was almost disconcerting to Harry as the last time they had seen each other there had not been such a sense of foreboding as he looked at his school rival. But then the last time they had seen each, he had not been responsible for Draco's father's death. Granted he had not killed Lucius by his own hand, but he doubted Draco would see the distinction.

Draco had to restrain himself like never before when he saw Potter slowly enter the chamber, he had not expected his rival to be here especially after all he had been through and everything he blamed Potter for causing. The death of his father, the abandonment of his mother and aunt and his torture at the hands of the dark lord and his followers, he put all that squarely at Potter's feet. And he swore one way or another Potter would pay. He didn't care about the dark lord's desire to kill Potter himself, he would have that privilege even if it caused his own death at the dark lord's hands. He was certain now he would not live much longer, once all the Malfoy fortune was gone he would be killed as payment for his father's disobedience. He had no way to earn more gold. No one would want to stay in business with a family headed by an underage and under-trained boy. And with his father dying in disgrace as far as the dark lord and his followers were concerned, any good will his family name had would be gone. Thus he swore even if it was the last thing he did it would be to kill Harry Potter and this time for real. Then his name would be remembered forever for good or ill, he no longer cared, one way or another one of them would die.

"Mr. Potter you are not supposed to be here," Dumbledore said as loudly as he could so as to gain everyone's attention. "This meeting is for members of the Wizengamot and those family heads with seats in this august body," he stated.

"I have claimed my right as head of my family and I know for a fact my family has a seat in the Wizengamot and I'm here to claim that back," Harry responded as strongly as he could, doing his best to project an image of strength. "A seat I know is in the hands of Elphias Doge and has been for some time. I thank him for his service, but he is no longer needed to stand in for my family as I now have inherited all rights my family had," he stated as boldly as he could.

"I'm afraid we are not allowing any new claimants at this time Mr. Potter and thus I must ask you to leave," Dumbledore responded even though he knew there would be quite a few in this chamber who would disagree with him.

"And yet Headmaster I see Draco Malfoy right over there, clearly standing in for his family which must mean he has also inherited his rights as head of the family," Harry shot back, having been coached as best as he could be for this meeting. A meeting he knew Lily didn't agree with him attending, but he had seen the points made by Amelia and Marcus as well Xander and Jenny. They could not allow Dumbledore or Voldemort to put their own man into the office of the Minister of Magic, thus he had to come and so everything he could to ensure the man who did get chosen was someone they could trust and who had no connections to the old man and old snake face.

Dumbledore blinked at Harry's quick response, but before he could think to say anything others in the hall began to shout and clamor to say something. This went on for five minutes or more, forcing him to use the sonorus charm to enhance his voice to be heard so as to call for quiet. Finally the others quieted down, allowing Dumbledore to focus once more on Harry.

"I'm afraid Harry that you are too late to claim your headship right now," he tried to say, but Amelia cut him off.

"Harry Potter claimed his headship days ago Albus and from what I know Draco Malfoy only claimed his yesterday hence you have no right to accept his inheritance but not Mr. Potter's," Amelia stated as she moved to the front of the group and met the old Wizards gaze which she noted had darkened at her interruption.

In that moment Dumbledore wanted to do nothing more than to blast Amelia into the wall, Harry Potter's refusal to cooperate with his plans as well as those he was allied with constant interference had caused him no end of headaches. Now he was certain Amelia was a part of this group and that she intended to use Harry, to help her either win the office of Minister herself or for someone she trusted. He gritted his teeth as others began to shout their support of Amelia's statement, while others tried to argue against it. Finally he decided just to allow Harry to have his family seat, the boy knew nothing of their politics or how the Wizengamot worked. He would not be able to do much here to aide Amelia and her allies, of that he was certain.

"Of course you are quite correct Amelia. I forgot myself in my haste to bring this meeting underway," Dumbledore finally said doing his best to sound contrite. "This is no time to waste on petty arguments, we are at war and at this moment in time we are leaderless," he pointed out.

"Elphias you may step down," Amelia said as she turned and looked up so she could face one of Dumbledore's oldest friends and a constant supporter in times past. She knew he had used his position as a stand in for the Potters and done his best to push Dumbledore's agendas though. She still found it hard to believe just how dark some of those agendas were turning out to be.

Elphias glanced slowly at Dumbledore who gave him a suitable nod which told him it was okay to do as Amelia wanted. He wasn't sure giving up the support of the Potter seat was the best idea, but he knew that they could do nothing to stop Potter from taking what was rightfully his, especially as he had gained headship of his family. He stepped out from the box that contained the Potter family seat and headed down to the floor.

"Lord Potter I return to you your family seat and all rights to the power and influence it wields. I have done my best to stand in for your parents and I hope I have acquitted myself with honor while holding it," Elphias stated as he came to stand in front of Harry.

"I thank you for your service in the memory of my parents Mr. Doge," Harry responded having been coached in what to say during the transfer. He then slowly turned and headed to the box the older man had just vacated, he did his best not to jar his shattered right shoulder too much. Feeling the metal rods, Pomfrey and his mother had put inside so his bones can heal, move slightly was an uncomfortable feeling, but he did his best to ignore them. Sitting down he breathed a sigh of relief, he had made it, the worst part had been of course getting to the ministry through a port key.

It had been agreed it would be the least harmful way to travel as long as someone held onto him which his mother did and she was helping to keep his injured shoulder from moving too much. He wasn't looking forward to traveling back to Grimmauld Place. Lily sat beside him on one side while Fleur sat on his other, he was still unsure of her being here, but she had insisted. She had told him in no certain terms she would not hide or hide their relationship either. He had wanted to argue the point, but instead decided to trust Fleur's judgment. Slowly everyone else took their seats as the last few members of the Wizengamot arrived.

The great doors were closed and then sealed as Dumbledore took his position in the seat reserved for the Chief Warlock at the head of the chamber.

"It is with great sadness we have all been called for this meeting, Cornelius Fudge the Minister of Magic was murdered last night along with his guards by death eaters under the command of Voldemort," Dumbledore stated, ignoring the shivers most had at him using the dark lord's real name. "We must now find someone to take his place and help lead us to a permanent victory against our old enemy, someone with the strength of will to not buckle under the strain as Cornelius did when Voldemort was first reported to be back among the living," he continued before being cut off.

"Minister Fudge didn't buckle Albus," Delores Umbridge hissed from a small section of the stands who were known to be Fudge loyalists. "He simply demanded more proof than the word of a boy who was reported and known to cry for attention," she went on with a glare in Harry's direction, causing Harry to tense up as he hadn't seen that the woman who had tortured him was in the chamber.

Rose felt his reaction and quickly did her best to calm him. She noted Fleur had done the same on his other side. She looked towards the toad looking woman with narrowed eyes wondering just what sort of interaction she'd had with her son to cause such a reaction. Her eyes trailed to Harry's scarred hand and a sudden realization came to her. She recalled what Moody had said about Fudge putting one of his lackeys into Hogwarts and that she had tortured Harry and other students with a damn blood quill, this must be Umbridge and the realization made her eyes harden as she glared at the woman.

"Need I remind you Madam Umbridge that Harry Potter reported far more than just a simple sighting of Voldemort?" Dumbledore replied with a sigh, confirming the identity of the woman for Lily even if he did not know he had done so. "He reported a full resurrection of the dark lord, and that his followers instantly returned to him and he named each of those followers. However Cornelius refused to even investigate the claims as the people named were some of his closest followers starting with Lucius Malfoy," he reminded them all, but kept his eyes locked on Umbridge ignoring the glare his words gained from Draco and those who followed the dark lord. "Our laws ensured the claims should have been at the least looked into, but he refused and we have all paid for that mistake as he paid last night with his life," he stated darkly.

"Our laws don't allow for children with possible psychological problems caused by the killing curse to accuse some of our most outstanding members to be followers of a long dead dark lord," Umbridge shouted in response going red in the face.

"Except he was proven right when Lucius and every other person named assaulted the Ministry along with the escapees from Azkaban," Amelia countered as she stood up from her own seat, growing tired of Umbridge's argument seeing it as nothing but a waste of time. "Fudge failed in his duty, granted he tried to make up for that failing once the war began again, but by then it was too late for him to fully redeem himself," she said with a glare at her long standing political enemy. "Harry Potter was proven correct Delores and I have found no signs of him having any psychological problems at all in my interactions with him, so I would kindly suggest you stop trying to demean him," she added with another glare.

Silence descended after that exchange as the different factions looked between themselves, wondering how to get a head start in what they knew would be one of the most important meetings ever to be had in this age.

+COF+

(Ministry holding cells)

Peter would have taken a breathe of relief as he made it into the Ministry holding cells where his target was kept, however in his rat form he could do nothing but what any other rat could. The Ministry was almost empty and from what he had heard it was due to a special meeting of the Wizengamot to appoint a new Minister now that Fudge was dead. Most of the guards were either outside the Wizengamot chamber or inside leaving a skeleton guard on duty, which would aide him here. He could ill afford another failure as the dark lord's temper was far to dangerous to provoke of late as even Bellatrix, his most faithful and successful follower, had found out. Finding Diggory was easy, he was the only one in any of the cells right now, and the man looked angry and bitter as he stared outwards.

Amos glared at the bars of his cell, wishing to get out and find the Potter brat so as to finish what he had started during the ambush, he cursed Dumbledore and the others for getting in his way. He cursed the unknown witch who had brought him down so painfully even more, whatever the hell that curse was it had left him completely broken so as to be picked up by those two stinking Aurors. More and more he centered on his revenge, the dark whisperings of Dumbledore had done their work maybe a little too well, not that Amos could even realize the sort of darkness he was allowing to consume him. He ignored the words of his wife who he had barely spoke to since joining the Order. She had tried to remind him how he had not initially blamed Harry Potter for Cedric's death, but thanks to Dumbledore he had only thought that due to not thinking straight in his grief. A sudden movement in the corner in his eye made him jump, turning he was shocked to see a rat turn into a fully grown man before realizing it was an animagus and one he knew was supposed to be dead, but wasn't.

"Pettigrew," he spat, making the other man blink in surprise. "What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded to know.

"The dark lord wishes to speak to you on an important matter, it concerns your son and how he really died," Peter responded, using what he figured would be the best response to get Diggory to agree to go without having to stun him.

"I know how he died you pathetic piece of filth," Amos spat in response. "Potter led him into a confrontation with your leader and it got him killed," he growled as he stood up.

Peter sighed already guessing the older man would not come no matter what he tried and thus pulled his wand and stunned him before Diggory could give him away. He then opened the cell door using his magic to transfigure Diggory into a piece of string, which was something light that his rat form could carry easily in its teeth. Quickly transforming he grabbed the string and scurried away.

+COF+

(Riddle Manor)

Voldemort sat at his desk, working out a possible power strengthening ritual he could use to bring some of his followers up to acceptable standards. He had long noted they were getting themselves beaten and in some cases killed far more easily than he would have liked. Most had let themselves go in the fifthteen years of peace they'd had, while he'd had no body. They needed an edge especially if they failed to win the office of Minster of Magic. This was going to be a turning point of this war either way, he intended in the next few weeks to step up his attacks and he also planned to bring in some new allies where ever he could. He had been on the back end for too long, allowing Potter and the Ministry to gain the upper hand. Killing Fudge had been their first real victory in far to long for his liking. He had lost too many of his people including some of his best and that included Bellatrix who was forever lost to him now. Even if he found her he would have to kill her due to his own vow. Refocusing he continued with his calculations and hoped they would prove correct for he knew the side effects would be nasty if they failed.

+COF+

(Ministry)

Brian Parkinson decided to get things rolling by first attacking Potter, an unknown in this whole thing. He knew little of the boy who lived, except the tales his daughter had told him and those whispered by the darker families who followed the dark lord and of course the legends, but he knew they were blighted by her obvious dislike of him. He had learned long ago not to take things at face value or to rely on other people's words. He knew the girl who sat on Potter's left side was not English in fact he knew she was the daughter of one of the French Minsters thanks to the whole stuff printed in the papers surrounding the Tri-wizard tournament. She should not be here. Maybe he could call Potter's loyalty to their country and movement into question by having a foreigner in their highest levels of power chambers.

"Before we begin for real I would like to inquire as to what a French citizen is doing within this chamber?" he inquired as he stood up. "They have no standing in our government or doesn't Lord Potter realize this important matter?" he added slyly. This caused many heads to turn and look in Harry's direction. He shifted slightly before slowly standing up himself. He knew that once he said what Fleur had basically told him to say she and her family would become a higher target to both Dumbledore and Voldemort. Fleur had already warned her father what was happening. He hadn't been very happy, but he understood his daughter wouldn't back down and stated he would take all necessary steps to protect the family.

"Fleur is my fiancée Lord Parkinson and thus has a right to attend this meeting. I did read up on our laws before coming and I know spouses and fiancées as well as family members are permitted to attend any meetings," Harry stated with a smile. It was not actually true, he and Fleur were still just getting started relationship wise, but no one else had to know that. He noted his statement caused frowns from Dumbledore and Parkinson, and looks of either acceptance or distaste on most of the others.

Xander stood, deciding to say something here to hopefully pull attention away from Fleur and her relationship to Harry. "I thought we were here to appoint a new Minster or Magic, not speculate on the relationships of our newest members," he said as loudly as he could. "I would think Lord Parkinson would focus more on important matters than trivial ones," he added before sitting back down, earning a glare from Parkinson as he did so.

"I believe Lord Black is correct," Marcus agreed as he stood up. "I doubt Mr. Potter would bring anyone here who wasn't supposed to be here. Now I suggest we get down to the reason we are really here for, before this war gets any darker," he suggested.

This brought a lot of voiced agreements from all sectors of the chamber. Parkinson frowned as he realized he hadn't had the effect he had intended. Clearly Potter had come prepared, which just went to prove he was right not to rely on other peoples opinions.

"I tend to agree Lord Abbott," Dumbledore stated as he called for order. "It is time for us to begin to discuss the real reason we are here. I also will accept no more delays to defend our former Minster," he said as he glanced at Delores and her group of supporters. "Or trying to undermine any of our members," he added turning to glance at Parkinson either though thanks to Parkinson he was now already thinking of a new way of gaining control of Harry Potter.

Everyone went silent while some just nodded in agreement with his words, they were all here to push their own agendas forward, but couldn't do that until the discussion and voting of a new Minster began.