Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Puppet of Time
The Great Hall of Hogwarts was as noisy as ever during dinner. That changed when a flock of owls swooped in, delivering a special edition of the Daily Prophet.
ALBUS DUMBLEDORE ACCUSED OF MUGGLE-BAITING
HYPOCRITE OR DECEIVER?
'I didn't expect that.' Draco thought when he read the article regarding the day's Wizengamot session.
Shocked silence was spreading outwards from those with newspapers as more and more students became aware of what was happening, although soon shouts of disbelief and loud discussions shattered the silence. Most of the teachers beat a hasty retreat, leaving only a confused-looking (and not entirely sober) Sybill Trelawney behind to supervise the students.
Having finished reading the article, Draco passed the newspaper to others at the table and leant back in his seat, staring at the ceiling. Dumbledore being accused of muggle-baiting would rock the entire wizarding world. Whoever had come up with those specific charges was a genius… a genius with a nasty streak several miles wide.
The published details were sparse at this time, but as far as Draco could tell the charges were completely true. The Dursleys had been hounded by a deluge of Hogwarts admittance letters over the span of several days back when Harry was about to turn eleven. It didn't matter that they had not let Harry read them – neither he nor them had a way of replying. Two or three attempts before sending someone to check on things would have been understandable, but the sheer number of letters was a sign that someone had deliberately done it to harass and antagonize the muggles… something that Dumbledore had gone to great lengths to make illegal.
This avenue of attack was something Draco honestly had not considered. Not only were the Dursleys only muggles, they were horrible human beings – in short, they were less than scum. Who cared that some wizard had been mean to them?
'The Dursleys' despicability will blunt the scandal somewhat.' he judged. 'But in the end this will be one of the single most damaging accusations that could have been leveled against the old man.'
Dumbledore had always styled himself as a proponent of muggle rights. If it could be proven that he had partaken in the abuse of muggles it would damage his political career more than anything else that had been brought up in the last months. Hypocrisy was not something the public admired.
'I wonder why he didn't do anything to cover it up.'
Then again, maybe he had. Harry had never talked about the particulars of his life with the Dursleys. The Dursleys were unlikely to ever interact with the wizarding world. Even if that happened such a specific incident was unlikely to come up.
"Do you think they will try to throw Dumbledore into Azkaban?" a Ravenclaw from further down the table asked.
"Don't be ridiculous. He's Dumbledore; they can't do that."
"You mean he will get away with it just because he's Dumbledore?"
"What's that supposed to mean? Of course he didn't do it; he's Dumbledore!"
"That doesn't mean he didn't do it!"
The discussions were growing rather heated, Draco thought. It was interesting to observe the distribution of the different opinions. A year ago hardly anybody would have believed the validity of the charges. Now, after the months-long mudslinging campaign of the last year, matters were different. It was difficult to get a clear reading, but a sizable majority of students actually seemed to believe the Ministry over Dumbledore.
Draco turned his head when he heard a loud crash over the noise of the arguments. It came from the Gryffindor table. Apparently somebody had punched the Seventh year prefect Percy Weasley in the face, causing him to fall over the table.
The situation escalated quickly. Without effective oversight (Trelawney was gaping like a fish) nobody was able to curb the tempers, the prefects not being up to the task. Fists flew and foodstuff was used as a projectile. The Great Hall descended into chaos.
A tug on Draco's sleeve made him focus on his neighbor Morag. "Yes?"
Draco didn't try to think, he just acted. A moment later a pastry sailed through the space his head had just vacated. Then spells began to be flung around. Draco, realizing the seriousness of the situation, now took cover under the table, dragging Morag and Stephen with him.
"I think we should leave." Draco said.
"You don't say!" Stephen replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he wiped gravy from his face.
Scrabbling underneath the table, the trio managed to avoid being targeted or hit by stray shots. Unfortunately they had to cross open ground to reach the door. A hard-cooked egg splattered onto Stephen's back while a half-chicken bounced off Draco's hastily raised arm. Morag side-stepped a brown-pink spell and ducked under a pudding without being hit. Then they were out of the door and immediately turned sideways to get out of the line of fire.
Draco stopped and carefully looked around the corner back into the hall. The fighting continued unabated, but a steady stream of students was escaping. He saw Ginny hiding under the staff table along with Neville and Hermione. There was no way for them to get out of the hall.
'At least nobody seems to be using any truly dangerous spells.'
Then he spied his sister, Daphne, her sister and the Carrow twins making their way towards the exit. Unfortunately Peeves had joined the fray and was bombarding them with various foodstuffs, impeding their progress.
'Not on my watch.' Draco thought. Looking around, he spied a first year student just leaving the hall carrying a bowl of porridge.
"Excuse me, I'll take that." he said when he lifted it from the boy's hands.
"Hey, I wanted to eat it!" the boy shouted, but Draco had stopped paying attention. Instead he took aim and banished the bowl at Peeves, hitting the poltergeist right in the face. That proved distraction enough for the group to leave the chaos of the hall behind.
All of them had bits of food clinging to them, but thankfully they didn't seem to have been hit by any spells.
"Thanks for the help, brother."
"Don't mention it." he answered while he turned towards Daphne, making sure his girlfriend was alright. "Are you okay?"
"I have been better." Daphne said while she removed bits of food from her robe.
Now that his friends were safe Draco turned his attention back on their surroundings. Dozens of students were milling around in front of the Great Hall, apparently unsure of what to do.
"Has anybody informed the teachers?" Draco asked in a loud voice. There was some mumbling and uncertain looks. It appeared as if nobody had done anything. "Then I'll go."
"I'll come with you." Daphne said.
It didn't take long for the two of them to reach the staffroom. Two gargoyles guarded the entrance. Draco addressed them. "There is an emergency. I need to speak with a teacher."
At first there seemed to be no reaction. Then the door opened, revealing McGonagall. She was about to say something when she noticed their appearance and stopped in her tracks. "Mr. Malfoy! Miss Greengrass! What happened to you?"
"There is fighting in the Great Hall, Professor. Everyone was arguing, somebody started punching and suddenly everyone was fighting with food and spells." Draco explained hurriedly.
McGonagall's mouth thinned into a line. She seemed to be very angry. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Please return to your dormitories immediately. I will declare a curfew."
Then she turned around and called the other teachers. A few seconds later the group of adults marched towards the Great Hall. Draco and Daphne watched them go.
"Not the most promising start into the new year." Daphne remarked.
"Oh, I wouldn't say that." Then Draco paused. "You have cucumber in your hair, you know."
Daphne ran her fingers through her hair, unsuccessfully trying to remove the offending piece of vegetable. "Blech. I don't even like cucumber."
"Let me." Draco disentangled the piece of cucumber from Daphne's hair before putting it into his mouth. "Needs dressing."
That got a chuckle out of Daphne. "If you say so." She sighed. "Let's return to our dormitories. I need a shower."
The rest of the day passed rather quickly. Flitwick gave the house a speech how disappointed he was. Since nobody could say who had really started the fighting the entire school was punished. One week curfew – students were escorted by teachers or prefects from class to class; leaving the house rooms was forbidden outside of that; Hogsmeade visits were cancelled for an entire month.
Since the weather turned absolutely miserable with near daily snowstorms Draco actually didn't mind the last part too much. More aggravating was being penned up in the common room. The fifth years had their OWLs coming up in a few months and the seventh years their NEWTs, meaning that they were studying hard and didn't appreciate any loud interruptions.
Still, the free-for-all brawl got Draco thinking. As far as he could tell it had been hardcore Dumbledore supporters who threw the first punch since they had no arguments left. A few months ago everyone would have laughed at the charges. Now they were a clear minority. Of course, the student body wasn't representative of the wizarding world at large.
The charge of aggravated muggle-baiting only carried a hefty fine, not a prison sentence, but it was indeed a criminal act. Whatever else happened, everybody would be able to beat Dumbledore around the head with that forever.
"I know what you have done. The offense carries a sentence of one year in Azkaban… at a minimum."
The voice was barely a whisper. "No, not Azkaban. Not again…"
Amelia Bones watched the large man collapse into himself. She kept her face expressionless, but she felt some amount of pity for the man. On the other hand, he had brought it onto himself.
"Mr. Hagrid, Dudley Dursley was a child. A rather nasty child perhaps, but still a child."
"But it was only…"
"Only what? Only a muggle, Mr. Hagrid?"
"NO! Only a pig's tail."
"Because you botched the spell. We both know perfectly well you intended to turn the boy into a pig."
Hagrid began to stammer incoherently.
"Mr. Hagrid, as loathsome as this form of muggle-baiting is, it carries only a fine. The pertinent matter is that you used magic deliberately, something you are forbidden to do. If it comes before the Wizengamot you will end up in Azkaban for sure." She let him stew for a few seconds longer. "I am prepared to offer you a deal."
The half-giant's featuers twisted in surprise, then anger. "No!" He rose from the chair. "I won't tell yer anything to twist against the Headmaster. Great man, Dumbledore."
"Be silent." The words snapped like a whip and Hagrid immediately sat back down. "Harry pleaded with me on your behalf. I would not be doing this otherwise." She steepled her hands. "Now, you will stay silent and listen. As Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement I am authorized to handle cases like yours without involving the Wizengamot. There is enough precedence. Instead of sending you to prison I will allow you to sign a confession and serve five years of labor in service to the Ministry of Magic… outside of Britain."
"I said you are to stay silent. There is news from the African Confederation of Wizard Kingdoms. King Djedhor is newly ascended to the throne. Britain will be sending a delegation and a number of gifts as will the other European countries. Djedhor is known to have an interest in dangerous magical creatures. Therefore, there will be many magical animals among the gifts. If you agree you will be sent along to work in Djedhor's menagerie for five years, caring for the beasts from Europe. After that time you are free to decide what to do with your life."
Amelia watched Hagrid's face attentively. The plethora of emotions warring against each other was a sight to see. He wanted to go, but he also wanted to remain in Hogwarts. The half-giant was totally incapable of keeping his thoughts secret… or anything else. It was clear that he really didn't like her, though. Considering his hero worship of Dumbledore that was to be expected.
'Carrot and stick. It never gets old.'
In truth, a trial before the Wizengamot would have served Amelia's goals better. It could have been used to further damage Dumbledore. This offer was solely to gain goodwill with Harry. The boy saw Hagrid as a friend and Amelia didn't want to alienate him. She couldn't overlook the crime because her allies wouldn't let it stand, but she could justify sending Hagrid out of the country instead of sending him to Azkaban.
Harry had kept silent about that part of his introduction into the magical world during his interview, but the Dursleys had not when questioned extensively. Originally it had slipped through the cracks (nobody really cared that much about muggles, particularly such nasty ones), but when Amelia reviewed all transcripts in light of Dolores' plan to charge Dumbledore with muggle baiting it had come up again. During the holidays she had questioned Harry again and he had let things slip.
Once the boy had realized the seriousness of the situation he had pleaded for Hagrid to be spared. This was an acceptable compromise. It meant one pawn less at Dumbledore's disposal. The old man didn't have many contacts in Africa and all communication would have to go through Britain's embassy.
Finally Hagrid came to a decision, looking disgruntled but resigned. "I'll take yer offer, Merlin be damned."
"Excellent. We will put the deal in writing immediately. You have until next month to put your affairs in order."
Once Hagrid had left Amelia allowed herself a small smile. Now only the trial had to go well.
"Those in favor of clearing the accused of all charges?" Cornelius Fudge asked.
Lucius Malfoy counted quickly. There were more raised hands than he had hoped for, although the number was rather small overall. It seemed some people were completely inconvincible no matter the evidence.
"And those in favor of conviction?"
Lucius raised his hand along with quite a number of other people. Again he counted quickly. Then he had to suppress a smile. It had worked.
"I think the result is clear. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, this court finds you guilty of aggravated muggle-baiting. You are to pay a fine of one thousand galleons. You have one week to pay the full sum."
Dumbledore tried to preserve what dignity he had, but he wasn't very successful. Lucius didn't listen to his words; he observed the Wizengamot and other people present. Most didn't seem inclined to believe Dumbledore's apologies, not this time.
'Hoisted by his own petard.'
It almost beggared belief. Dumbledore himself had led the effort to enact the current strict laws regarding muggle-baiting. He disregarding them so blatantly said interesting things about his general sincerity. It confirmed the very low opinion Lucius had of the sanctimonious old fool.
The neat part of the law was that even accidental effects could be counted as muggle-baiting. Although one letter on the first day, one on the second, three on the third, twelve on the fourth, twenty-four on the fifth and around a hundred on the sixth day could hardly be called accidental. Then, when the Dursleys fled another hundred letters had been sent. Only on the eighth day had someone been sent to meet them personally. That prolonged period of harassing automatically turned it from normal into aggravated, meaning the fine was far harsher… and incidentally it gave Dumbledore a criminal record.
To make things even more ironclad Dumbledore as Headmaster was responsible for all official Hogwarts mail and couldn't wriggle out of the charges like he had done with other things regarding Harry's upbringing.
Finally Dumbledore finished his drawn-out apology.
Fudge cleared his throat. "Thank you for this… illuminating speech, Chief Warlock. Has anybody any issues to bring before the Wizengamot before we adjourn?"
'Time for the next act.'
Lucius nodded towards Lord Partington. The man nodded back and stood up.
"The Wizengamot recognizes Lord Partington."
"I motion to remove Albus Dumbledore from his position of Chief Warlock and from the Wizengamot. A criminal has no place among us. I cite the law of Wizengamot proceeding from 1829, section two, subsection twenty-seven, paragraph twelve: No convicted criminal may hold any position in the Wizengamot for ten years after his conviction."
That created another hubbub. The old law in question was indeed still on the books, but in truth that mattered relatively little. If a sufficient number of Wizengamot members chose to ignore a law there was nothing that could be done to actually enforce it. Legality mattered, but power mattered more.
There were some crazy things put into text, but anybody relying purely on them would experience a rather nasty surprise. The tale of the wizard who imagined himself as the heir of the Founders and three dozen Houses still got many laughs more than a century after the fact. The poor fool had tried to claim three quarters of all Wizengamot seats because of some legal loopholes in inheritance law. Of course, he had been laughed out of the room. Reportedly he had gone around claiming "Hogwarts and Britain are mine by right!" until his dying day, to the great amusement of his contemporaries.
A vote was called. This vote was not as one-sided as the conviction, but Lucius and his allies still managed a comfortable majority.
"Very well. Mr. Dumbledore, you are hereby removed from the position of Chief Warlock. We thank you for your many years of service and wish you good luck in your future endeavors." Fudge said, smiling a fake smile.
All in all, it was a very bad day to be Albus Dumbledore.
Once the Wizengamot session concluded Lucius accompanied Archibald Nott and Liam Greengrass to celebrate the occasion in private at Greengrass Manor.
"To our success!"
"That went well. It was far past time for the old fool to be ousted." Lucius said after a few second of silent drinking.
"I agree, but don't be hasty. Dumbledore is down, but he isn't out yet. He might stage a comeback in a few years. We are on a good way, though." Archibald cautioned.
Liam took a sip from his glass. "Is there any chance for us to remove him as Headmaster?"
"Only if we could get a majority of the board of governors on board. How are the odds for that?"
Lucius grimaced slightly. He didn't like to be reminded of his time on the board. "That is unlikely. Almost everyone on the board is a close friend of Dumbledore. They have been content to let him run Hogwarts as he pleases for decades. The criminal conviction won't change things. We would need a bigger school-related incident than last year's string of attacks to put pressure on them."
"Hm." Greengrass tapped his fingers on the table. "Could we arrange something with the dementors? They will be around Hogwarts for some time to come. There's still no trace of Black anywhere to be found."
"Too risky. They are barely controllable at the best of times. Too many of our families have children at Hogwarts." Archibald said. "Perhaps we can use the Triwizard Tournament. It seems as if Crouch is getting his way in reinstating it. All sorts of highly embarrassing things can happen during such a dangerous game, can't they?"
The three men shared nasty smiles.
Archibald emptied his glass and refilled it. "With Dumbledore out of the way the largest stumbling block on the way to a better society is gone. We will need a few months before we can make any moves. Lucius, you are the one most familiar with the players in the Ministry. What is your impression of the government situation?"
"Fudge is a weak reed. He trusts me and will bend as long as he is allowed to stay minister and nothing untoward happens in public perception. Now, Umbridge is a different matter. A year ago I would have said she will do whatever will get her and the Ministry more power. Now I'm not as sure. Working with Amelia has changed things. The two are in a tight alliance. Together they have the Ministry in their grip and won't let go. Dumbledore's faction is still there, but increasingly diminished. Crouch retains some influence, but not overly much."
"Should we begin preparations to remove Bones or Umbridge?" Liam asked.
"I don't think so. Amelia plays by the rules. She is a stick-in-the-mud regarding laws, but she won't interfere as long as we use legal means." Archibald answered.
Lucius nodded. "I agree. She can be reasoned with and is willing to play ball. Without her help it would have taken us years to oust Dumbledore. Umbridge won't oppose any of our policies as long as the power of the bureaucracy remains untouched."
"Then we can take care of her at a later point." Archibald decided. "The Wizengamot situation is better than it was, but still not ideal. With a little luck a few more of Dumbledore's supporters will resign in protest of his ousting, although I don't think the odds are good."
"We could always remove some of them through… more direct means." Liam proposed.
The elderly Nott gave Liam a look of reproach. "That would be very foolish. We don't want any suspicious deaths at this point. Besides, with Greyback and his pack dead professional murder has become rather more difficult to acquire. Not that I mourn that rabid beast. His attack on Lucius' father has aptly shown that he was uncontrollable. Good riddance to bad rubbish I say."
Lucius remained silent, but Liam wasn't ready to let the point rest. "The Sicilian is available for commissions in Britain."
"And he charges an arm and a leg for his services. Besides, he's not ideologically aligned with us. Too risky."
"There's always Mrs. Zabini."
"She's doing it only for personal advancement these days, not that anybody can prove anything. I don't want any more contact with that viper than I can help. There are others, but they are amateurs. Thugs, not killers."
"We could do it ourselves."
Archibald slammed his hand on the table. "Stop this foolish talk, Liam. Violence would be counterproductive. It creates risks we do not need. We already hold more power than when the Dark Lord led us. Time is on our side. With our wealth we can promote the right candidates for the Wizengamot. One by one they will be replaced. Our influence in the Ministry is rising. The more we have the quicker it will go. We only need to wait."
Liam chose not to answer, but he backed down. Lucius tried to get a conversation going. He was not having much success. Finally Archibald took his leave.
Once he was gone Liam harrumphed. "Archibald is far too cautious."
"He is getting old, what do you expect?" Lucius said.
"A little more enthusiasm for the cause. That is what I expect." He emptied his glass and slammed it on the table. "If Archibald has his way we will still be working from the shadows in twenty years. I'm sick of waiting. We should take power now. Mudbloods and blood traitors are crawling everywhere, befouling everything. We should kill a few of them to make a point."
Lucius was inclined to agree, but that was a bit much even for his taste. "Don't be ridiculous. Dumbledore is still there. They will welcome him back in the blink of an eye if there is talk of a new Dark Lord. Do you want to face him in battle?" He smiled. "Of course, once he has been removed from all power things will be different."
"Right, you're right. I got carried away." They spend a few minutes in companionable silence before Liam spoke up again. "A few of the old crowd are planning a little outing during the Quidditch World Cup, just to remind everyone that we are still there. Nothing dangerous, just a show of force. Interested?"
Lucius leaned forward. "Tell me more."
Liam shrugged. "There's nothing much to it. Break out the old garb, parade around for a few minutes and then disappear. No killings, just a little property damage. That should give everyone a nice scare, but shouldn't cause anything to hinder our agenda."
"Count me in." He missed the old days. Well, parts of the old days. There had been some bad things he tried not to remember.
It was much later that Lucius returned home, his good mood restored. Everything had gone according to plan. Dumbledore had been ousted and he had driven a little wedge between Archibald and Liam. All in all it was a good day to be Lucius Malfoy.
Life was boring, Aquila thought. Being penned up in the dungeons for a week had not been fun. After the mass battle in the Great Hall the general mood was rather subdued, although there had been some bragging. Considering the general attitude of Slytherins regarding Dumbledore nobody believed the old man's innocence.
The rest of January had not been very interesting either. Snow, more snow and had she mentioned snow? The only events of note were Dumbledore's trial and Hagrid's departure. The old man had been sentenced to a hefty fine and been ousted as Chief Warlock, although he remained as Headmaster. Hagrid had left Hogwarts at the end of January with a tearful farewell. He was headed to Africa.
'At least it's warmer there.'
Wilhemina Grubbly-Plank was the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Draco and Daphne were both of the opinion that she was a much better teacher than Hagrid. Having had no contact worth mentioning with either Hagrid or the new teacher, Aquila had really no opinion of her own on that account.
'On the other hand, I'm pretty sure Hagrid is responsible for the Acromantula colony in the forest.'
It was impossible for Hagrid not to know about them since it was his duty as Hogwart's gamekeeper to take care of the Forbidden Forest. He was just the kind of person who wouldn't do anything about the spiders despite the danger they posed to the student population. Aquila actually didn't mind. Since last year she had secretly gone out hunting several times. Acromantula made good prey and nobody would miss them. She was performing a public service, really. She had even a silent agreement with the centaurs to clean up the aftermath of her hunts, at least if she interpreted the signs correctly.
Unfortunately, with all the snow clogging up the forest she couldn't go out. The snowdrifts were bigger than her. That was doubly regrettable because she doubted she would find another opportunity when a more dutiful gamekeeper was hired.
'Boring, boring, boring.'
Valentine 's Day was fast approaching and there was nothing to do. Schoolwork came easily to her. Socially nothing much was happening. She was unquestioningly the leader of the Slytherins in her year, helped by the fact that there were no other scions of prominent families. Her brother's relationship with Daphne seemed to slowly slide back into simple friendship without any of the parties really noticing.
On the matter of Draco's secrets she had made zero progress. Both he and Ginny had dug their heels in and refused to give any information. It was a somewhat novel experience for Aquila to not get something if she tried long and hard enough. She didn't enjoy it much.
Even Aquila's normal favorite pastime of subtly taunting Pansy Parkinson had lost its appeal. Fighting a battle of wits with someone unarmed just seemed unsporting. Half the time the older girl didn't even realize Aquila was sniping at her.
"I'm going for a walk." she announced. "You two will stay here."
Her two minions shared a look. "If you say so."
Aquila rolled her eyes. "Yes, I say so."
It was her father's doing, she was sure. The twins Flora and Hestia Carrow had been her friends for years, but lately they followed her around constantly on their family's prodding. Apparently her father thought she could use minions or something. Aquila found it very annoying.
Aquila was about to leave the dungeon area when she came face to face with another Slytherin.
"Walking around without your minions? How brave of you. A mean Gryffindor might attack you at any time."
"They can try. I see you left your minions behind, too."
"Sometimes a lady needs her privacy."
"True, true. It can get rather annoying. At least you got a matching pair."
"And they are of much higher quality, too."
Theo shrugged. "One has to make do with what one has. You should avoid the fourth floor. The Weasley twins and their friend Jordan are doing something there."
"Thank you for the warning." Aquila said politely before continuing on her way.
Her destination was a small courtyard at the edge of Hogwarts. The walls kept most of the snow and wind away. The biting cold made the stay outside uncomfortable, although it wasn't as if much of the castle's inside was much warmer.
Aquila sat down on the branch of a withered white tree somebody had planted here years and years ago, staring into the clouds overhead. She liked to visit this spot to think or just to get a little alone time.
Theo had been rather nice to her during the last weeks. She didn't like him especially, but she also didn't dislike him. Daphne couldn't stand him for some reason. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Theo was something of a leader of the Slytherin junior years and even the upper years listened to him to some degree. Daphne as a member of a junior branch of House Greengrass had to treat him nicely wether she wanted to or not.
In truth Aquila thought that Theo was rather unsuited as leader despite his cleverness. By nature he was solitary and uncomfortable with public attention. Unfortunately he had little choice. His father being the head of House Nott and the senior member of the triumvirate leading the pureblood coalition made him important in their circles. There were a lot of expectations resting on him.
'I suppose Theo plays his role well enough given the circumstances.'
It was something Aquila was very familiar with. Everyone expected things from her. Her parents, her grandfather, her teachers, her yearmates, the public, even most of her friends, all of them had their expectations. Only Draco, Ginny and to a degree Daphne took a true interest in who she really was. Aunt Cassiopeia had done that, too, but she was long dead.
Suddenly a dark shadow passed through the clouds overhead and a wave of despair and misery washed over Aquila. Reaching into her pocket, she retrieved one of the summer candies her brother had created and popped it into her mouth. Immediately the dark feeling receded.
'They are growing bolder.'
Aquila had noticed that the dementors were pushing the boundaries set for them, coming closer to the castle than they were allowed. That made her rather worried. After all, she couldn't shoot a dementor with either a spell or her crossbow and hope to achieve anything. The damned things were indestructible.
'I should talk with Draco about it.'
Her brother would know what to do, if there was anything they could do.
Ten minutes later Aquila had enough fresh air for the day and headed back inside. Just when she passed an intersection she heard two sets of steps coming towards her.
'I hope those aren't the Weasley twins. I am near the fourth floor.'
Not wanting to risk a meeting, Aquila opened the next available door and stepped into the room behind, closing the door. It was full of antique furniture and a lot of dust. Turning around, she knelt down and looked though the keyhole, trying to get a look at the people coming her way.
It was her brother and Ginny. The two didn't notice her. They stopped at the wall opposite the room she was hiding in. They discussed something, but spoke to quietly for her to make out the words. Then Ginny pulled at a nearby candleholder, turning it almost ninety degrees. The wall opened to reveal a small stairway. The two disappeared down the stairs and the wall closed behind them.
'Why are the two sneaking around together? Ginny knows far too many secrets. I wonder…'
Could it be that her brother had a thing going with Ginny?
Rita Skeeter was not having a good day. In fact, she was not having a good month. The uproar around Dumbledore was slowly dying down and she had trouble finding something to keep it going. Normally she would have begun making things up, but Amelia Bones had been very firm on that point. At the same time she pressured Rita to come up with something new to keep up the pressure.
Most of the stuff she had dug up was old news. Some of it was scandalous, yes, but it simply wasn't spectacular enough to elicit a strong reaction in today's public. Who cared about some bending of the laws from several decades ago, like allowing a werewolf to attend Hogwarts? That would be good for one or two weeks at most, if even that.
'Where can I get more material?'
The old man had buried his skeletons well. She was sure there were a lot of them; she was just unable to find and unearth them. It was frustrating.
Currently she was in beetle-form, perching on a wall inside the Leaky Cauldron in the hopes of catching some interesting conversations. She always did that when she didn't know what to do. There were always a lot of people here and more than once a completely innocent remark had set her on the trail towards a promising story.
Suddenly she caught something interesting. "… when I was visiting my cousin in Godric's Hollow. Bathilda just returned from her vacation in France. Didn't help much, if you ask me; she's losing it more and more."
"How old is she anyway?"
"Don't ask me; she was always there as long as I can remember."
The conversation turned to other topics, but Rita wasn't listeing anymore. Her thoughts were racing. 'Bathilda Bagshot? Isn't she the author of a lot of history books?'
Godric's Hollow was the erstwhile dwelling place of the Dumbledore family after Albus' father had been thrown into Azkaban. Rita had already investigated the small village months ago, but unfortunately the few people old enough to remember the time had nothing to say. Bathilda had been absent for months, supposedly on a tour of Europe's health resorts. It might be a good idea to investigate again now that she was back.
Several hours later Rita left Godric's Hollow in a much better mood than the one she had arrived in. The batty old woman had been a veritable treasure trove of information. In fact, it might be better to work it into a book instead of newspaper articles. That would take longer, but the effect might be more profound.
Yes, she could already see it. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. It would be her masterpiece.
Author's notes: Thank you for your reviews.
A (relatively) speedy update! Enjoy!