Chapter 64: Into the Depths of the Ministry
Remus freaked out as he ran from the house, slamming the door behind him and disappearing on the spot, going who knows where.
Albus was stunned to say the least, unable to believe that he would react the way that he would. He knew that he was angry at the things that Harry had said, but to lash out that way? Hermione cried after him, trying to get him to come back, but she might as well to the wind for all the good it did before she turned back to Harry and wailed—asking how he could say all that.
"It was easy," Harry answered back, his face full of anger, and rubbing a lump on his head where he had hit the wall. When Hermione looked at him as if she was about to cry he snapped, "Don't look at me like that!"
"Don't you start on her!" Ron jumped in, and it looked like the beginning of a fight before Hermione stood between them and told them they had to stop now.
Ron didn't look ready to let it go however as he told Harry, "You shouldn't have said that stuff to Lupin."
"He had it coming to him," said Harry darkly as he turned his back on them all. Albus nodded grimly, his heart constricting painfully at Harry's next words however, "Parents… shouldn't leave their kids unless – unless they've got to."
And he would know wouldn't he? He knew how painful it had been to grow up without a father… the difference between Remus and James was that James didn't have a choice. If he did, he'd have been here by his son's side this entire time. Someone had to say it… and it was strangely appropriate for Harry to be the one to do so.
Hermione's eyes softened at those words, as if she understood what he was feeling. She stretched out a hand to try and console him, but Harry ignored it as he walked away and stared at the fire, unable to look at them. Albus knew that he was now probably feeling confusion and guilt over the things that he said, but he stood behind him on this. Remus wasn't being brave, and he needed someone to remind him of that.
Harry finally turned to look at them all grim. "I know I shouldn't have called him a coward," he admitted.
"No, you should have," Albus said just as Ron said almost at the same time, "No, you shouldn't."
"But he's acting like one," Harry added, a flash of anger back in his face.
"All the same…" Hermione began.
"But sometime gentle words don't work," Albus sighed. The truth isn't always pleasant to hear… and he was sure that once Remus calmed down, he'd go back to Tonks. Once he realized how he was acting… it was only a matter of time.
"I know," Harry asked them, a slight plea in his voice as they looked at each other. "But if it makes him go back to Tonks, it'll be worth it, won't it?"
"Yes it will be, Harry," Albus answered quietly. "And I'm sure that James would've backed you up. After all, he died trying to protect what he loved."
Harry glanced at the paper and picked it up to read, and Albus saw the picture…
The Dumbledore family, left to right: Albus; Percival, holding newborn Ariana; Kendra, and Aberforth.
Albus looked away, hoping that Harry wouldn't read it, but he had already opened it and started. By the time that he threw the paper from him, he was looking sickened. Albus was about to open his eyes and return to the mist when there was a loud CRACK. Kreacher had returned and was struggling to hold onto Mundungus Fletcher before he hurried to his feet and bowed low to Harry, croaking out, "Kreacher has returned with the thief Mundungus Fletcher, Master."
In the light of what happened, he had almost forgot about Kreacher and that he had gone after Mundungus. He watched as Hermione quickly disarmed him and Ron tackled him to the ground, holding himself there so that he couldn't hope to escape.
"What?" he bellowed, writhing in his attempts to free himself from Ron's grip. "Wha've I done? Setting a bleedin' 'house-elf on me, what are you playing at, wha've I done, lemme go, lemme go, of – "
"You're not in much of a position to make threats," said Harry coldly as he walked forward, and held his wand there threateningly.
"Kreacher apologizes for the delay in bringing the thief, Master," the elf croaked up at him. "Fletcher knows how to avoid capture, has many hidey-holes and accomplices. Nevertheless, Kreacher cornered the thief in the end."
Yes, Albus certainly knew that. One of the many advantages it had been to have someone like him on their side. But he certainly caused a lot more trouble than he was worth. He only hoped that it wasn't too late to find out where the locket was. This was their only lead.
"You've done really well, Kreacher," said Harry, and the elf bowed low to the compliment before Harry turned back to Mundungus.
"I panicked, okay?" he shouted out loudly, "I never wanted to come along, no offense, mate, but I never volunteered to die for you, an' that was bleedin' You-Know-Who come flying at me, anyone woulda got outta there. I said all along I didn't wanna do it –"
"For your information, none of the rest of us Disapparated," Hermione interrupted coldly. And soon they went into a dark interrogation, pressing him into talking. Harry was maybe enjoying this a little too much as they questioned him, and Albus couldn't say that he didn't find it amusing when Kreacher lost his temper and hit Mundungus over the head with a saucepan.
He burst out laughing at that, feeling better than he had for a long time, even when Harry called for him to stop.
"Perhaps just one more, Master Harry, for luck?" Kreacher asked as he struggled to hold the pan up. Albus was smiling again, now here was the proof… Kreacher really wasn't bad at all since they gave him a chance. Even Ron laughed, and Harry smiled at the request.
"We need him conscious, Kreacher," he said, "but if he needs persuading, you can do the honors."
"Thank you very much, Master," said Kreacher with a bow, and he retreated a short distance, his great pale eyes still fixed upon Mundungus with loathing.
Harry turned back to Mundungus and started asking about the locket and what he did with it. Naturally, it turned out that he no longer had it and he practically gave it away to some Ministry official because she caught him selling without a license and was going to cause him trouble until she took a fancy to the locket and left.
"Who was this woman?" asked Harry.
"I dunno, some Ministry hag," he answered as he frowned for a moment, trying to remember. "Little woman. Bow on top of 'er head."
At those words Albus shook his head exasperatedly. He had to be joking… but what he said next confirmed it for him.
"Looked like a toad."
"Of all the people it could've been…" Albus sighed. Though he supposed that it really wasn't that surprising… selling out doing the right thing for a bribe? Not surprising at all.
The other three were so stunned that Harry dropped his wand and accidently set Mundungus's eyebrows on fire before Hermione put it out. The three of them stared at each other in shock, and Harry's hand unconsciously rubbing the back of his right hand where the words, 'I must not tell lies' shone fainting.
Albus watched over them, watching as the month rolled on and they made their plans to break into the Ministry. It was going slow at first as they tried to gather information, but he was impressed by their progress. Their job was only made harder when Death Eaters were keeping watch over Grimmauld Place, as if expecting them to leave at any moment. Truthfully though, he was amused by the fact that three teenage children were outsmarting them time and time again.
Weather they thought that they were honestly naïve enough to head to Hogwarts, or that they might get lucky, he wasn't sure. They were pretty much on their own for now. On September first, Harry came back with grim news about the new teachers at school and Severus now the headmaster.
But it was the Carrows who concerned him. They were Death Eaters and were sure to try to brainwash the students into thinking like them. He couldn't begin to imagine how horrible it will be for them all.
"'I welcome the opportunity to uphold our finest Wizarding traditions and values –' Like committing murder and cutting off people's ears, I suppose! Snape, headmaster! Snape in Dumbledore's study – Merlin's pants!" Hermione shrieked and went running off from the table as the other two boys looked at each other startled.
"'Merlin's pants'?" repeated Ron, looking amused. "She must be upset." He pulled the newspaper toward him to read it for himself before he added, "The other teachers won't stand for this, McGonagall and Flitwick and Sprout all know the truth, they know how Dumbledore died. They won't accept Snape as headmaster. And who are these Carrows?"
Unfortunately, they didn't have a choice but to accept it. The only reason they were staying there now was to protect the students from the Carrows.
"Death Eaters," said Harry at once. "There are pictures of them inside. They were at the top of the tower when Snape killed Dumbledore, so it's all friends together. And," he went on bitterly, as he sat next to Ron, "I can't see that the other teachers have got any choice but to stay. If the Ministry and Voldemort are behind Snape it'll be a choice between staying and teaching, or a nice few years in Azkaban – and that's if they're lucky. I reckon they'll stay to try and protect the students."
True. Albus knew his teachers. And they would never leave their students unprotected. As Kreacher brought his food to him—yet another amazing change in the elderly elf—Hermione came back and brought down Phineas Nigellus's portrait.
Ah, so that they can be sure that Severus wouldn't be listening to them. They soon went back to their plans to breaking into the Ministry. Albus wasn't completely sure about that though… the last place that they should be right now would be the Ministry… aside from Hogwarts that is. Getting inside was going to be close to impossible, and then there's finding Umbridge. He had kept a watch on her, sick at the heart of her part in her judging the Muggle-borns, and knew that she did have the locket.
"I think we should do it tomorrow," said Harry, interrupting the two as they argued. Hermione stopped dead so that her jaw fell open in shock and Ron choked over the soup.
"Well," Albus sighed to himself, "That's one way to get their attention."
"Tomorrow?" repeated Hermione. "You aren't serious, Harry?"
"I am," said Harry. "I don't think we're going to be much better prepared than we are now even if we skulk around the Ministry entrance for another month. The longer we put it off, the farther away that locket could be. There's already a good chance Umbridge has chucked it away; the thing doesn't open."
He was making a few fair points. They still needed to find a way to destroy the locket—and it sounds like they're focusing solely on getting it back before that.
"Unless," Ron suggested, "she's found a way of opening it and she's now possessed."
No, he was sure that she was in her right mind, she just didn't care about what she was doing. She used it to try and boost her own Pureblood status, and the dark influence was making her even more foul to begin with.
"Wouldn't make any difference to her, she was so evil in the first place," Harry shrugged and Albus smirked a little at that, though it was a bit forced.
"We know everything important," Harry went on, addressing Hermione, who still didn't look convinced. "We know they've stopped Apparition in and out of the Ministry; we know only the most senior Ministry members are allowed to connect their homes to the Floo Network now, because Ron heard those two Unspeakables complaining about it. And we know roughly where Umbridge's office is, because of what you heard the bearded bloke saying to his mate –"
"'I'll be up on level one, Dolores wants to see me,'" Hermione recited immediately as if she were in class.
"Exactly," Harry went on hurriedly, "And we know you get in using those funny coins, or tokens, or whatever they are, because I saw that witch borrowing one from her friend – "
"But we haven't got any!" Hermione pointed out.
"If the plan works, we will have," Harry continued calmly.
Albus nodded. He knew that they had been watching the Ministry for a few weeks, and they were pretty prepared, but they still had a long way to go. He would've suggested that they wait a couple more days, but every second counted. Hermione was pointing this out, that there was a chance that so much that could go wrong, and that they were going to depend mostly on luck to pull this off.
Ah, but isn't that how most of their adventures went? He thought that they had done an amazing job so far. They had spent weeks spying and eavesdropping on officials from the Ministry as they hung around the main entrance.
"All right," said Ron slowly, "let's say we go for it tomorrow … I think it should just be me and Harry."
Albus shook his head, knowing better than anyone how well Hermione was going to take the news. And sure enough she was telling him off for that. The usual argument about who should stay and who should go… it always ended with them pointing out how they were all in danger. That Hermione was a Muggle-born and hadn't presented herself for interrogation, how Ron was supposed to be dying of spattergroit, and Harry now has that bounty on his head.
The truth was they were all at risk and they were better off working together. They were strongest that way.
Just then, Harry's hand shot to his forehead and Albus knew at once that his scar must've been bothering him again. A terrible feeling, as if his stomach had been filled with ice, began to fill up in worry, and instinctively reached out to touch him. Only for him to remember that he could no longer do that.
He stepped backwards, his heart suddenly heavy as he watched Harry get up from the table and run. He managed to make it to the bathroom and he watched miserably as Harry fell to his knees and then to his side as he held onto his head, and screamed out in agony. At his screams, Ron and Hermione had both run after him and she was pounding on the door, calling his name anxiously. It had been several minutes before Harry was able to regain control. Gritting his teeth in pain, Harry forced himself up and let them in.
"What were you doing?" asked Hermione sternly.
"What d'you think I was doing?" asked Harry, trying to sound bold, but it came out weakly.
"You were yelling your head off!" Ron said loudly.
"Oh yeah," Harry said distractedly, "I must've dozed off or – "
Harry, do honesty think that would work? Albus shook his head, ready to hear another argument between them.
"Harry, please don't insult our intelligence," said Hermione, taking deep breaths. "We know your scar hurt downstairs, and you're white as a sheet."
Harry didn't answer for a moment before he sat on the edge of the bathtub and confessed what he saw. Voldemort had murdered a woman, and most likely her whole family when he was looking for Gregorovitch.
Albus shook his head, his heart going out to that poor family.
"Harry, you aren't supposed to let this happen anymore!" Hermione cried out, close to screaming. "Dumbledore wanted you to use Occlumency! He thought the connection was dangerous – Voldemort can use it, Harry! What good is it to watch him kill and torture, how can it help?"
Maybe, but Harry didn't have much of a choice. And he felt guilt once more at the thought that he never learned Occlumency properly. If he had only explained why it was so important, maybe if he had taught him himself…?
"Because it means I know what he's doing," Harry answered coldly.
Albus had mixed feelings for that. Voldemort it blocking himself from Harry at the moment, and probably doesn't even realize that Harry can see into his mind now… but that doesn't mean that…?
"So you're not even going to try to shut him out?" Hermione demanded.
"Hermione, I can't," Harry told her tiredly, "You know I'm lousy at Occlumency. I never got the hang of it."
"You never really tried!" she said hotly. "I don't get it, Harry – do you like having this special connection or relationship or what – whatever – "
Albus winced, knowing that she went too far that time. Severus had cancelled the lessons himself, and he knew that he never actually taught him. Though he knew it was from fear for Harry's safety, he was surprised that Hermione could say that… no one could possibly enjoy seeing this.
Harry gave her such a dark look that her voice died in her throat.
"Like it?" he said quietly. "Would you like it?"
"I – no – I'm sorry, Harry," she mumbled, "I just didn't mean – "
"I hate it," Harry said firmly, "I hate the fact that he can get inside me, that I have to watch him when he's most dangerous. But I'm going to use it."
Even though he hated the idea of Harry knowing what Voldemort feels like and thinks, he had to admit using it against him is a good idea, especially since it doesn't look as if he realizes that Harry was seeing these things yet. He was wary of this connection, but he was sure that once again Voldemort didn't know that Harry was seeing glimpse into his mind. He didn't know how that could be, seeing as he knew that Voldemort was now aware of this and could only assume that Voldemort had put up defenses against Harry that were now not working. If that was true, it wasn't so bad that Harry knew what Voldemort was planning, but it could still be dangerous.
"Dumbledore –" she began firmly.
"Forget Dumbledore," Harry said indifferently. "This is my choice, nobody else's. I want to know why he's after Gregorovitch."
At those words, Albus flinched. Obviously, the lies Skeeter had printed had affected him far more greatly than he hoped.
"Who?" Hermione asked, taken aback by the name.
"He's a foreign wandmaker," said Harry impatiently and he told them about how Krum mentioned him at the wedding. But Ron reminded him that Voldemort had Ollivander locked up as well, so why would he need another wandmaker.
More than one reason. Not only was Ollivander unable to help him with beating Harry's wand, he thinks that Gregorovitch still might have the Elder Wand.
"Maybe he agrees with Krum, maybe he thinks Gregorovitch is better," Harry offered, "Or else he thinks Gregorovitch will be able to explain what my wand did when he was chasing me, because Ollivander didn't know."
The two of them exchanged skeptical looks, clearly doubting what Harry was saying about his wand. But Albus had a very good idea to what was happening. Harry and Hermione had another argument, with Hermione claiming that Harry had been the one who did that, and asking why he was determined not to take responsibility for his own powers.
Harry argued that he knew that it hadn't been him, and Voldemort knew that as well. They glared at each other, looking ready to go on before Ron interrupted them, reminding them that if they were going into the Ministry tomorrow, they should go over the plan.
Hermione didn't look the least bit happy about this, and Albus was willing to bet that she would bring this conversation up again when she next could. He watched them talk about their plans well into the night before he opened his eyes and gazed sadly across the mist. He was nervous to see if they could pull this off, but they had gone over the plan, they were good at improvising and thinking on their feet… he only hoped it would be enough.
He looked up in time to see a woman and her family appearing through the mist and he sighed as he rose to greet them.
*The Next Day*
The next day, he kept a watchful eye on them, hoping that they would be able to pull this off. He watched as they appeared in an alleyway outside the Ministry's entrance. They were waiting for the first Ministry workers to appear, with Hermione nervous and jumpy the whole time. Albus smiled a little, remembering how gifted she was at making plans, but when it comes to going through with it, she tended to forget things due to nerves.
The first part of their plan worked very well. Dear Mafalda Hopkirk arrived early for work that day, and he winced a little when he saw them forced to stun her and drag her into the alleyway before taking a few of her hairs and putting them in the Polyjuice Potion that she had managed acquire from Alastor's stash.
Not the worst person she could have picked. Mafalda was a half-blood, but her family line was well known so she shouldn't have any worries of interrogation, as well as being relatively high up in the Ministry.
They passed Hermione the tokens that she would need to get inside and became Mafalda's double, even taking her spectacles before they checked the time and waited for Reginald Cattermole. But Albus also knew that his wife was one of the people called in for interviewing today, and he wasn't going to be as easy to take out.
But he didn't stand a chance. When he arrived, he greeted Hermione (Mafalda) and she had giving him a Puking Pastille. Before he knew it, soon he was sick and unable to walk straight. As he coughed and struggled to breathe, Albus spotted Hermione yanking out a few hairs as he was struggling to continue to try and head inside where his wife was waiting.
After several minutes, and Hermione's coaxing, Reginald finally accepted that she was right and left for St. Mungo's at once.
"Urgh," said Hermione, looking around for the boys. "It would have made much less mess to Stun him too."
"Yeah," said Ron, suddenly reappearing from under the cloak and held up Reginald's bag that he managed to steal when he wasn't looking, "but I still think a whole pile of unconscious bodies would have drawn more attention. Keen on his job, though, isn't he? Chuck us the hair and the potion, then."
True… Albus could see where he was coming from, but with his wife in interrogation right now, he was sure to come back as soon as he could. After taking on his form, Ron took on Reginald's appearance before they left, telling Harry to wait until they found someone inside the Ministry for him to impersonate. In the end, they came back about ten minutes later with hair they took from Albert Runcorn, a Death Eater sympathizer. With Hermione taking another quick drink of Polyjuice Potion to maintain her disguise, they all entered together and headed to the bathrooms. And Albus was unable to bite back the snort of laughter when he saw someone call to Ron, "Blooming pain in the bum, this, eh? Forcing us all to get to work this way! Who are they expecting to turn up, Harry Potter?"
Oh the irony.
"Yeah," Ron asked with a forced chuckle, "stupid, isn't it?"
And this was an interesting way to get into the Ministry these days, by flushing themselves in. He went on ahead into the Atrium, waiting for the three to show up and went over to the center where the fountain once stood, and glared in disgust at the statue of the witch and wizard sitting on the thrones.
His eyes were drawn to the carvings of the Muggles all twisted and pressed together to support the thrones that they had become. It was horrible and disgusting. Not that he was ever fond of the old statue, but still… how could anyone bare to look at this every day? He always thought the Fountain of Magical Brethren was bad enough, but for this, he couldn't even look at it without feeling a surge of anger rise up inside him.
Soon though, Ron and Hermione were staring up at the statue with equal looks of revulsion. Once Harry joined them and they began searching for Dolores Umbridge. When they passed through the gates and into the hall, heading to the lifts, when he heard someone call out. He looked and scowled when he saw Yaxley striding over towards them as if he owned the place.
He then came over to Ron and began to threaten him about getting the rain to stop in his office or else he was going to make things much more difficult for him and his wife. But Albus shook his head as he watched Yaxley leave with that same unpleasant smile, and he knew that he wouldn't have spared Mary Cattermole even if his office wasn't raining.
Albus followed the three of them into their left, Ron now looking stricken. "What am I going to do?" he asked them terrified. "If I don't turn up, my wife… I mean, Cattermole's wife – "
"We'll come with you, we should stick together –" Harry told him, but Ron was already shaking his head.
"That's mental, we haven't got much time," he said quickly. "You two find Umbridge, I'll go and sort out Yaxley's office – but how do I stop it raining?"
Dumbledore knew that it was a prank by some of the other Ministry workers, their own private way of fighting back against the known Death Eaters here. Though he knew that they didn't mean harm to the rest of their workers, an angry Death Eater was always bound to cause trouble.
"Try Finite Incantatem," said Hermione at once, "that should stop the rain if it's a hex or curse; if it doesn't something's gone wrong with an Atmospheric Charm, which will be more difficult to fix, so as an interim measure try Impervius to protect his belongings – "
Ron was searching his pockets for a quill, but then they reached level four and several others came in. Albus was worried about this, though he had a feeling that this would've happened. They were going to be separated, and Ron would be forced to do what he could for Yaxley's office, otherwise the Cattermoles will be forced to pay the price.
Once they reached level 2, Hermione pushed Ron out and he hurried along, followed by the others so that Harry and Hermione were alone. But Hermione turned back to Harry and whispered, "Actually, Harry, I think I'd better go after him, I don't think he knows what he's doing and if he gets caught the whole thing – "
But the words were no sooner out of her mouth did they reach level 1, and waiting there was none other than the very person they had been looking for.
"Ah, Mafalda!" said Umbridge, looking at Hermione. "Travers sent you, did he?"
"Y-yes," squeaked Hermione.
"Good, you'll do perfectly well." Umbridge spoke Thicknesse. "That's that problem solved. Minister, if Mafalda can be spared for record-keeping we shall be able to start straightaway." She consulted her clipboard. "Ten people today and one of them the wife of a Ministry employee!
Albus shook his head, knowing that this wasn't going to end well. And as he dreaded, they were all split up. Ron would be down trying to make a room stop raining and to make sure that Mary wouldn't be convicted, Hermione would be forced to oversee the interrogations, and Harry was now stuck on Level 1 with who knows what else could happen. The Horcrux just walked right past him and now their plan was ruined for now.
Harry left the lift and he looked back in time to see Hermione's fearful face before they went out of sight. This wasn't good… but, Harry had always worked best when there wasn't a plan to fall back on. He hoped that their luck hadn't run out by now. At least now they knew where Umbridge would be, and if they were careful, their plan might still work.
Harry shared a brief word with Thicknesse, briefly mentioning Arthur Weasley. And Albus only hoped that it wouldn't get Arthur into trouble.
"Ah, well. It's only a matter of time," said Thicknesse. "If you ask me, the blood traitors are as bad as the Mudbloods. Good day, Runcorn."
Albus shook his head, trying to remind himself that Thicknesse is under the Imperius Curse and that he had no idea of what he was saying or doing.
"Good day, Minister," Harry said as he made sure to watch him march away before he pulled the Cloak out and threw it over his head. But Albus could still see right through to him and followed after. It wouldn't hurt to check Umbridge's office just to be on the safe side.
When he found the right room, Albus could see the dozen witches and wizards sitting in school desks as they worked. He didn't need to step closer to know what they were printing…
And the Dangers They Pose to
A Peaceful Pure-Blood Society
He heard one of them whisper, "Will the old hag be interrogating Mudbloods all day, does anyone know?"
He shook his head at the disgusting word as someone whispered to her, "Careful."
"What," she hissed, "Has she got magic ears as well as an eye, now?"
Albus sighed, knowing just what they were talking about. He went to Dolores's door and she could see the familiar magical eye sticking out through the door where she would be watching them all. What infuriated him just as much were the plaques right beneath it…
Senior Undersecretary to the Minister
Head of the Muggle-Born
Albus could feel his face turning into the scowl as he fought the waves of sickness that was rolling inside him. How did that woman sleep at night? Did she not feel any regret? Shame? Or even Guilt for all the people she hurts? Or is her soul just so rotten on the inside that she had lost the ability to feel anything?
He forced himself to look away as he spotted Harry pull out one of the Decoy Detonators that he had seen in the Weasley's joke shop. He watched as it scuttled from under the Cloak and went running off a decent distance away before it exploded in a loud bang, and released a great acrid, cloud of smoke into the air. Pink pages from the pamphlets flew over the place and there screams as they tried to figure out what happened.
During all this, Harry quietly snuck inside Dolores's office and closed the door behind him; and Albus couldn't help but chuckle slightly. That was done perfectly, in face if he didn't know better, he'd swear that Harry had done this before. He looked around the office, and his good mood faded. This place looked just like her office back at Hogwarts. Everything from the dried flowers, the kitten ornamental plates, to the flowered cloth covering the desk.
He rolled his eyes, when he spotted the telescope attached to the door, knowing that Alastor would be rolling in his grave right about now if he knew all this. So she has nothing better to do with her time than spy on the other workers? It wouldn't surprise him in the slightest if he found out that she did as much work as she did when she was still a 'teacher'.
To his surprise, or maybe not so surprise, Harry went to the door, where the magical eye was attached to the telescope and pulled it out. He had mixed feelings… he knew that he was doing that for Alastor, but that was sure to get them into trouble. Not that he expected Harry to do anything less… just the thought of Alastor's eye there was too much to bear.
Harry tried to summon the locket, but of course nothing happened. Dolores had the necklace with her, but how to get to it was the question. Harry then went around her desk and began to look through it, throwing out all kinds of useless stuff, hoping to find something to help, but coming up empty. He then went looking through the filing cabinet, searching it and surprisingly finding Arthur Weasley's name in there.
Albus looked over Harry's shoulder to see what it said, though he had a very good idea already:
Pureblood, but with unacceptable pro-Muggle leanings. Known member of the Order of the Phoenix.
Wife (pureblood), seven children, two youngest at Hogwarts. NB: Youngest son currently at home, seriously ill, Ministry inspectors have confirmed.
Good. Their plan had worked out perfectly and no one was suspicious.
TRACKED. All movements are being monitored. Strong likelihood Undesirable No. 1 will contact (has stayed with Weasley family previously)
Undesirable No. 1? Yes, that was what they were calling Harry these days wasn't it? He fought a laugh… only Harry would be the most wanted person by the Ministry, and then just go walking in through the front doors like this.
"Undesirable Number One," he heard Harry mutter under his breath before he put the file back and shut the door. That was when he noticed the poster on the wall and went over to it. It was a poster of himself, with the words UNDESIRABLE NO. 1 emblazoned across his chest and he went to the little pink note attached to it.
Albus read it as well and he felt anger roar up inside him when he saw the three words: To be punished.
He knew better than anyone the views of what's right and wrong can change as often as the tides. But Umbridge… what did Harry ever do to be punished for?
In anger himself, Harry began to look through every little inch of the office, but didn't seem surprised to see that nothing was there. He looked ready to just leave before he suddenly went over to the bookcase and picked up a book, and Albus groaned at the sight of it. He knew just what the book was…
Harry opened it at random and was flipping through the pages, before he looked away, terrified at what Harry was reading now. In fact, he was almost grateful when he heard the door open and Harry was forced to put the book down and pull the cloak over his head.
Thicknesse had come in and froze for a moment, looking curiously at where Harry was, as if he had seen something. But after a moment, he seemed to dismiss it as he walked to the desk and used his wand to write a note before Harry slipped out. Albus followed after him as they slipped passed the ones still gathered around what was left of the Decoy Detonator.
And he was glad to hear them say, "I bet it sneaked up here from Experimental Charms, they're so careless, remember that poisonous duck?"
He let out a wild laugh, glad that the decoy works even better when people have a reasonable answer for why it was there. He kept up with Harry as he hurried back to the lifts, and he could see from the anxious look on his face. If he knew him as well as he thought, then he knew that he was trying to think of a way out of here. All they had to do was find each other and then quickly leave before their Polyjuice Potion wore off.
Getting the Horcux was important, but getting out was their priority right now. Yet, he also knew that them coming back another day could be even more dangerous… he shook his head. If only they could get to Umbridge once again and see the locket… they could steal it and then escape…
First thing's first though. He had to find Ron, and together get Hermione out of the courtrooms before they left. If they hurried…
But as the next lift arrived, Harry jumped in and pulled off the Invisibility Cloak and went downwards. With a shred of luck, Ron—soaked to the bone—got inside when it reached level two.
"M-morning," he stammered to Harry as the lift set off again.
"Ron, it's me, Harry!" Harry said to him quickly.
"Harry! Blimey, I forgot what you looked like –
"Ron…" Albus whispered, "You need to remember things… oh well… no harm done."
"Why isn't Hermione with you?" Ron pressed on.
"She had to go down to the courtrooms with Umbridge," Harry whispered, "She couldn't refuse, and –"
But before Harry could finish the lift had stopped again. The doors opened and this time it was Arthur who stepped inside with Wakanda—he remembered her from school.
"… I quite understand what you're saying, Wakanda, but I'm afraid I cannot be party to – "
But then he noticed who was in the lift with them, and he gave Harry—still looking like Runcorn—a look of deep dislike. He didn't say anything at first as they continued downwards together, until Arthur noticed that Ron was dripping wet.
"Oh hello, Reg," he said, "Isn't your wife in for questioning today? Er – what's happened to you? Why are you so wet?"
"Yaxley's office is raining," said Ron, not able to look him in the eye, as if afraid that his father would see through his disguise if he did. "I couldn't stop it, so they've sent me to get Bernie – Pillsworth, I think they said –"
"Yes, a lot of offices have been raining lately," Arthur nodded. "Did you try Meterolojinx Recanto? It worked for Bletchley."
"Meteolojinx Recanto?" whispered Ron. "No, I didn't. Thanks, D – I mean, thanks, Arthur."
It was a good thing that he stopped himself. It really would've given them away and Arthur would then be worried sick over the fact that they were here. The doors opened and Wakanda left with Ron. Harry looked ready to follow, but Percy Weasley strode inside, his nose so buried in the papers that he was reading, that he didn't realize his father was there with them.
Albus sighed. He knew that Percy wanted so badly to make up with his family, but with everyone watching him, he couldn't risk it and put them all in danger at the same time. When he looked up and saw Arthur, he turned bright red and turned to leave, but the doors had already closed.
It was a stiff, awkward silence as they went down to the next floor. As soon as the doors opened, Percy almost ran out without even looking at his father. Harry made to follow, but then Arthur stopped him by holding out his arm.
"One moment, Runcorn," he said coldly, and then the lift doors closed again. As they clanked down to the next floor, he went on, "I hear you had information about Dirk Cresswell."
Albus shook his head, knowing that Arthur's stress was close to the boiling point. But seeing how his son just walked out as if nothing happened.
"Sorry?" Harry asked.
"Don't pretend, Runcorn," Arthur whispered fiercely. "You tracked down the wizard who faked his family tree, didn't you?"
"I – so what if I did?" said Harry uncertainly, looking like he rather be anywhere but here at the moment.
"So Dirk Cresswell is ten times the wizard you are," said Arthur quietly, as the lift sank ever lower. "And if he survives Azkaban, you'll have to answer to him, not to mention his wife, his sons, and his friends –"
Maybe… but Arthur shouldn't be trying to make a point of it. He was just lucky that it wasn't the real Runcorn who he was talking to.
"Arthur," Harry interrupted, "you know you're being tracked, don't you?"
"Is that a threat, Runcorn?" Arthur demanded loudly, looking ready to pull out his wand and start a duel.
"No," said Harry, "it's a fact! They're watching your every move –"
Now perhaps Albus was imagining it. But maybe there was a flicker of recognition in his eyes when he looked at him. But if it was there, he shook his head hard and decided it was nothing. When the lifts opened again and they were in the Atrium, Arthur gave him one last dark look before he walked out without a glance back.
Harry stood there alone in the lift until they were moving again and headed downwards. Once he felt that it was safe, he pulled out the Cloak and threw it over his head. Albus could almost read his mind at that moment, he would try to get Hermione on his own before they went back for Ron and got out.
When they stepped off to the floor of the Department of Mysteries, he could almost feel him shivering next to him. Yes, this place was sure to bring back bad memories.
Harry took a deep breath before he followed after him. He had been here before during his ridiculous trial two years ago, which was a good thing now. He knew just where to go. Now… how to get Hermione out of there? Runcorn does have a great level of importance in the Ministry these days. So he could merely come in and ask to see Mafalda… but if she never came back, that would trigger a search… they could still be somewhere in this place with no way to get out. He wouldn't use that unless he had to.
But as they went deeper into the halls, he felt the unnatural chill of cold and he groaned out. Dementors… of course Umbridge would want them here. That isn't good… People knew about Harry's Patronus… they would know it was him from the start.
And at the passage to the courtrooms there were dozens of Dementors waiting there… those poor Muggle-borns were huddled and shivering on benches not far from them. Most of them were hiding their faces in their hands, perhaps in an instinctive attempt to shield themselves from the dementors' greedy mouths. Some were accompanied by families, others sat alone. The dementors were gliding up and down in front of them, and the cold, and the hopelessness, and the despair of the place laid themselves like a curse….
Albus's hands clenched into fists. They were keeping Muggle-borns imprisoned with Dementors before they were even brought in for questioning. They weren't animals or criminals… it disgusted him to think of how Umbridge—how the Ministry—could get away with all this.
Harry was shivering as he forced himself to walk past them. The Dementors looked up, their hoods turned in his direction and he knew they sensed him.
Albus couldn't help but feel the pride inside him at that. He knew that Harry's greatest fear was… and he was still forcing himself to walk passed his worst fear defenselessly. But then, one of the dungeon doors burst open and he could hear the screams…
"No, no, I'm half-blood, I'm half-blood, I tell you! My father was a wizard, he was, look him up, Arkie Alderton, he's a well known broomstick designer, look him up, I tell you – get your hands off me, get your hands off –"
"This is your final warning," said Umbridge's soft voice, magically magnified so that it sounded clearly over the man's desperate screams. "If you struggle, you will be subjected to the Dementor's Kiss."
Albus stepped back; this was disgusting. A Dementor's Kiss for this. What is worse is Umbridge has no excuse. This is all her personality. No imperious or coercion from Voldemort, since she isn't a Death Eater.
With no other choice, the man stopped screaming and struggling, but he could hear his sobs as two Dementors appeared and dragged him away.
"Next – Mary Cattermole," called Umbridge.
Albus turned at once and could see Mary forcing herself to get up. She was shaking so badly and her face so white that she seemed ready to faint. Harry seemed to hesitate for a moment before he went following right after her.
Why wasn't he surprised?
He followed after them as well into one of the smaller courtrooms. There were more dementors in here, casting their freezing aura over the place; they stood like faceless sentinels in the corners farthest from the high, raised platform. Here, behind a balustrade, sat Umbridge, with Yaxley on one side of her, and Hermione, quite as white-faced as Mrs. Cattermole, on the other.
At the foot of the platform, most likely to keep her from feeling the effects of the Dementors, was Umbridge's long-haired cat prowling up and down. Mary stumbled to the seat in the middle of the room and sat down—and Albus felt more rage when the chains bound her arms there so that she couldn't move.
"You are Mary Elizabeth Cattermole?" asked Umbridge and then began her questioning… it was horrible to watch. Mary was at their mercy, forced to answer all of their questions as he watched Harry go up the platform to where Hermione was. He had been right, the Patronus was keeping them safe from the Dementors. He was sure that Dolores Umbridge was so happy here, in her element, upholding the twisted laws she had helped to write.
Hermione suddenly jumped, and he assumed that Harry let her know that he was there.
But he stayed with Mary, trying to offer her words of encouragement, even though he knew that she couldn't hear him. But to just give her a little bit of comfort in this horrible, dark place… to remind her she wasn't alone… it was all he could do.
He's anger rose when they began to ask her who she stole the wand from. Took a wand… that has got to be the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. They knew full well that a Muggle couldn't use a wand. Even if they did get their hands on one, it would just be an ordinary stick in their hands. Mary started to sob, trying to tell them that she didn't take it. She bought it when she was eleven and it had chosen her. When she started to cry, Umbridge laughed in such a way that Albus wanted nothing more than to curse her into oblivion.
But when she leaned forward to look at Mary better, to act superior, he could see the locket shining at her neck.
He looked over to see that Harry and Hermione had spotted it as well. Hermione even let out a little squeak when she did, though Umbridge and Yaxley didn't notice it. Umbridge ordered Hermione to pass the questionnaire to her… looking so toad like, he half expected to see webbing between her fingers.
Hermione's hands were shaking has she fumbled the papers before she pointed to the locket and stuttered how pretty it was.
"What?" she snapped, looking at it before she patted it fondly. "Oh yes – an old family heirloom. The S stands for Selwyn…. I am related to the Selwyns…"
What a liar. He knew for a fact that she wasn't even pureblood. It was proof in the way she acted… acts of superiority over Muggle-borns and half humans… now that he thought about it, it seems like she fears them all and he wondered if that was the reason. She would be willing to use anything to bolster her blood.
Of course, she was also related to toads he was sure… he couldn't see just what was so special about that.
"Indeed, there are few pure-blood families to whom I am not related. A pity," she continued in a louder voice, flicking through Mrs. Cattermole's questionnaire, "that the same cannot be said for you. 'Parents professions: greengrocers'."
Albus's was itching to curse her now—her and Yaxley, who was jeering at poor Mary.
Harry, on the other hand, seemed to have lost it completely though as he pulled out his wand and not even bothered to hide himself as he said, "Stupefy!"
No… not yet. And not now! That was the last thing he should've done… but at the same time he couldn't blame him one bit for that. And he watched with a great deal of satisfaction of seeing Umbridge crumple where she sat and her Patronus vanished. Yaxley, in confusion, was staring around wildly for the attacker before Harry stunned him and he fell to the ground out cold.
"Harry!" Hermione cried, getting up.
"Hermione, if you think I was going to sit here and let her pretend –" Harry retorted angrily.
"Harry, Mrs. Cattermole!" she screamed and Albus's heart frozen when he saw the Dementors flocking to Mary, who was screaming in fear as they forced her head back.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry screamed and the silver stag emerged, more powerful and warming than the cat's had been. Its light filled the whole dungeon and the Dementors fell backwards away from it, as if afraid they'd be burned.
Once again, Albus was stunned at the bright light the Patronus created when it appeared. He remembered the first time he saw it at the Quidditch match against Ravenclaw years ago… how stunned and shaken he was to have seen one of the most powerful Patronus's he had ever seen in his life.
"Get the Horcrux," Harry told Hermione as he stuffed the Cloak away and went to Mary.
"You?" she whispered, gazing into his face. "But – but Reg said you were the one who submitted my name for questioning!"
"Did I?" muttered Harry, tugging at the chains binding her arms, "Well, I've had a change of heart. Diffindo!" Nothing happened.
He'd have to use something stronger on those chains. Goblin made… that wasn't going to be that easy to break. He turned to Hermione and asked how to break the cuffs. He snapped at her to hurry before she snapped, "I know that, Harry, but if she wakes up and the locket's gone – I need to duplicate it – Geminio!" And in its place was a fake locket, identical to the one they had taken. "There… That should fool her…."
She ran over and broke the chains and Mary stared up at them in fear. "I don't understand," she whispered.
"You're going to leave here with us," said Harry, pulling her to her feet. "Go home, grab your children, and get out, get out of the country if you've got to. Disguise yourselves and run. You've seen how it is, you won't get anything like a fair hearing here."
Albus smiled proudly, glad that he was able to help her… and most likely those other Muggle-borns. Good… he was becoming a better leader with every passing day.
"Harry," said Hermione, "how are we going to get out of here with all those dementors outside the door?"
"Patronuses," said Harry, pointing his wand at his own. The stag slowed and walked, still gleaming brightly, toward the door. "As many as we can muster; do yours, Hermione."
"Expec – Expecto patronum," said Hermione, and again, Hermione's problem with stressful situations kicks in.
"It's the only spell she ever has trouble with," Harry told Mary before she looked at them both, baffled to what was going on. "Bit unfortunate, really… Come on Hermione…"
She looked to be having trouble coming up with a happy thought or feeling, but after a few seconds she conjured up a graceful silver otter from her wand and at the sight of it, she seemed to be given a little more encouragement.
"C'mon," said Harry, and he led the women to the doors and outside the dungeon, where the people outside gasped in shock at the sight of them. He was sure that at least some of them realized who it really was. Harry doesn't realize just how recognizable his Patronus is…
Harry didn't focus on that though, he looked around at the retreating Dementors before he told them all that he decided that you should all go home and go into hiding with your families, all of them dazzled by the Patronus's. He just told them to get as far away as possible from the Ministry and to follow the Patronus's to the Atrium where they would leave because it was the new official position.
The new official position is it? Albus loved this… and he couldn't have been more proud of what they were doing. They got the Locket and helping these people… but they couldn't relax yet. They had to hurry and get them all out before they could celebrate.
But this makes it a good cover story for them as well. It wouldn't make much sense to the Order members when they hear about it, but to the Death Eaters, they would expect them to do something like this. He could only imagine what people would think if they heard that Harry got in and out of the Ministry without getting caught.
They managed to get up to the lifts without being intercepted, and to their luck, Ron had just appeared. At the sight of him, Mary flung herself at him, telling him that they should go home and get the children.
Ron nodded absentmindedly before he turned to Harry and told him, "Harry, they know there are intruders inside the Ministry, something about a hole in Umbridge's office door. I reckon we've got five minutes if that –"
Albus had been afraid of that. He didn't care how they did it, just as long as they got out. He knew that he would've done the same thing in Harry's place…
In fear, Hermione's silver otter vanished and she turned to Harry as she whispered, "Harry, if we're trapped here – !"
"We won't be if we move fast," said Harry, spinning around to the others, gawping at him—and if they didn't know who he really was before, they were sure to by now.
"Who's got wands?" he asked them all quickly, and half of them raised their hands and he gave them all orders. Sounding like a real leader here, he told them that those who didn't have wands were to attack themselves to someone who did and they need to hurry as they took them upstairs.
It was a good idea. It would be terrible if any of them were left behind while they were attempting to escape. They'd be sent straight to Azkaban… and that's if they're lucky.
He held his breath as opened his eyes, but shut them almost at once again so that he was in the Atrium and waited. It seemed to take a lifetime of waiting for them to appear. He was pacing back and forth, and knew that they were in trouble now. Everyone knew that there were intruders, and the Atrium was full of people sealing off the fireplaces. He wanted to do something, anything to help, but he couldn't do anything anymore.
The lift finally came up and they all piled up. He went over to them in time to hear Hermione squeak and point to what was going on. As soon as he saw them, Harry thundered in Runcorn's voice, now taking full advantage of the man's position, "STOP!"
Yet again, finding and impersonating Runcorn had been a good thing. Hopefully, this ploy will last just long enough for them to get outside. If they could do that much then they were in the clear…
Harry told the others to follow him, and Albus was once again amazed at how he was albe to keep his head during all this. Most would be freaking out, unsure of what to do.
"What's up, Albert?" someone called nervously.
"This lot need to leave before you seal the exits," Harry said, and used with a tone of authority that he never heard from him before.
The other wizards were looking at each other, not sure of what to do as they tried to tell him that they had been told to seal off all the exits and not let anyone out.
"Are you contradicting me?" Harry blustered, and it was now a good thing that he had run into Arthur from before. "Would you like me to have your family tree examined, like I had Dirk Cresswell's?"
"Brilliant," Albus said proudly. That was quick thinking, and it was good he was able to get that information from Arthur and remember it.
And his words sure got their attention. Terrified, they backed away at once as Harry told them all that they're blood was pure. Purer than any of theirs and told them to get lost. In fact, those words were probably truer than even he realized.
As he ordered the Muggle-borns to leave, something else happened…
"Oh no…" Albus groaned.
"Mary!" Reginald called, pale and sickly, had just come out of another lift.
This was the worst thing that could've happened to them. Ron swore loudly as the wizard in charge of the lifts stared from one Reg to the other. "Hey – what's going on? What is this?" he demanded before Yaxley barreled in.
"Seal the exit! SEAL IT!"
Ron pulled Mary through the fires as Harry punched the balding wizard before he screamed, "He's been helping Muggle-borns escape, Yaxley!"
Confused, Yaxley looked from Harry to the punched wizard, while Reginald Cattermole was screaming out who that was with his wife. With Reginald yelling, Yaxley seemed to put two and two together. Harry grabbed Hermione's hand, and he could see their disguises starting to wear off. They jumped into the fire as Yaxley's curse just missed Harry's head.
Albus followed them up into the bathrooms where Ron was at the sinks, trying to pull himself free of Mary. "Reg, I don't understand –"
"Let go, I'm not your husband," Ron finally shouted. "You've got to go home!"
"Look out!" Albus called, but it was too late. Yaxley appeared and Harry grabbed Hermione and Ron as he turned on the spot. But at the last second Yaxley made a diving leap and caught Hermione by the helm of her robe and caught a ride.
(Oh, that sure wasn't a good day was it? How was it though? I hope you all enjoyed it. and we'll soon go on to when Ron leaves and Godric's Hallow.)