Chapter 9


Dumbledore burrowed his aching head into his hands. "Why?" he asked plaintively. "Why are they leaving?" he asked the room. It was filled with the teachers and staff of Hogwarts, almost everyone except for Umbridge, who thankfully was away at the Ministry. Someone snorted. Dumbledore didn't particularly care whom at this point. Truth be told he would prefer not to know.

"Do you really need to ask, Albus?" said Professor McGonagall. "What did you think would happen? You were the one who stood up in the Great Hall and announced that You-Know-Who is back. I'm just surprised that it took so long for them to decide to leave."

"B-But...B-But," sputtered Dumbledore. "That is no reason to leave Hogwarts. Surely the children know that they are safe here."

McGonagall snorted in disbelief. "Those children saw Cedric Diggory lying dead on the Quidditch Pitch last year. I'm afraid no one believes your assurances of Hogwarts' safety any more, Albus."

"Perhaps if I spoke to them? Do you think I could persuade them to stay?" asked Dumbledore, rather plaintively.

"I doubt it," answered Flitwick. "Your reputation with them has taken a bit of a beating over the last few years. I mean - it's just been one thing after the other hasn't it. We've had a Basilisk petrifying students. Dementors invading the Quidditch Pitch and the Hogwarts Express. Sirius Black waltzing in and out like he owned the place. Diggory's murder. The problem is, none of them have ever seen you do anything to keep them safe. The muggleborns particularly don't trust you, not after the way they were targeted during the whole Chamber of Secrets fiasco. They feel that keeping the school open during that time put them unnecessarily at risk. It didn't help that they only saw action taken after Miss Weasley disappeared. They feel that just shows the staff's blatant disregard for the well being of anyone who is not a pureblood." He raised a hand to ward off Dumbledore's furious denials. "Their words Albus, not mine."

"From the rumours I've heard it's not just the students at Hogwarts either. Muggleborn from all over Britain are leaving," said Professor Sprout, rather sadly.

"I still can't believe that. Why-Why are they...I mean, even at the height of the last war against Voldemort, people stayed. They stayed and they fought," said Dumbledore.

"Last time was different, Albus," said Fliwick. "The last time, the Ministry was doing something. They had aurors fighting against Voldemort. People had hope that he would be defeated. Now - Now they know he's back and they know that no one, not one person is doing anything about it. Why would they stick around? What would be the point of waiting?"

"I think that persuading the muggleborn to stay is a lost cause. That particular ship sailed a long time ago. What we need to do now, is figure out a way to keep Hogwarts open. With things the way they are, I'm not sure we'll have the funds to stay open next year," said McGonagall.

"Surely you must be mistaken Minerva, the Muggleborn only make up about twenty percent of the students. We can weather a twenty percent reduction in student fees. We may have to tighten our belts here and there but surely...Can't we?" asked Dumbledore.

"You haven't thought things through, Albus. Yes, so far it's mostly the muggleborn that have withdrawn from Hogwarts but the half-bloods - they make up another forty percent of the students. Most of them will leave soon as well. We will not be able to stay open next year, not with a sixty percent reduction in student fees," said McGonagall.

"Surely the half-bloods will stay," said Dumbledore, "they have never been as discriminated against and..."

"And none of that makes one iota of a difference, Albus," interrupted McGonagall. "You're forgetting one thing - What is a half-blood anyway? It is someone with either a muggleborn or a muggle for a parent. Pomona already told you that the muggleborn are leaving Britain, and anyone who has a muggle for a spouse knows that the Pureblood bigots classify them as blood traitors. That means that most, if not all, of the parents of our half-blood students will soon be leaving Britain as well. Do you really think that they will leave their children behind?"

"Well...then...we will just have to raise the fees then," said Albus Dumbledore.

McGonagall frowned, her face looking haggard and lined with worry. "We will have to more than double the tuition fees for the remaining students. Unfortunately, that means that some of the parents will be unable to pay...which means more students dropping out...which means raising the fees again...The only way we will be able to stay open is if the Ministry agrees to subsidise us. Unfortunately, with the way things are between you and Fudge..."

Dumbledore wanted to weep. He truly did. He still could not believe the sheer enormity of the disaster that was looming over their heads. Damn Fudge. If only would get his head out of the sand. Couldn't he see that this would lead to the absolute ruin of Magical Britain. Couldn't he see that he had to do something? Anything?

~oo00oo~

Jim Dobbins, the boy formerly known as Harry Potter, wanted to bang his head against a wall in frustration. He was sitting at a desk in a rather lovely and comfortable bedroom in a small flat rented by him and Dobby, in their personas of Bob and Jim Dobbins. They could afford a much bigger place but the small flat suited him and Dobby just fine. The reason they could afford a much larger place did not have anything to do with his large pile of galleons that Harry had barely made a dent in. No, it had to do with a little idea that Harry had had when he came across a garage sale one day. Initially, it had just been a way to keep Dobby busy. He had not wanted the little elf to be bored while he attended school after all. So he and Dobby had started buying up old furniture from garage sales. A mix of elf magic and Harry's liberal use of the Reparo charm made short work of restoring even the most decrepit piece of furniture to a wonderfully pristine state. Harry was still somewhat shocked at the sheer amount of money that was currently rolling in from what had originally started as a spur of the moment decision to buy a couple of battered second-hand desks for their flat. Who knew that you could make so much money from selling furniture?

That had nothing to do with his current state of frustration though. No, he was frustrated because books were covering his desk; his desk was in fact, absolutely groaning under the weight of dozens upon dozens of textbooks.

Catching up on a non-magical education after four years at Hogwarts was not proving to be easy. At times like these, he almost wished that he had stayed at Hogwarts. At least there, he had Hermione to help him whenever he had difficulty with his schoolwork.

Still, he supposed that a little bit of studying, scratch that, make that - a lot of studying, was a small price to pay for the knowledge that now he was absolutely safe.

He just hoped that he could get his grades up in time. It would totally suck if he had to attend summer school. Not only would it be a pain but it would also mean that he would miss out on magical summer camp.

That was another one of the truly brilliant things about the States. It turned out that no one here went to a magic only school like Hogwarts had been. Oh, they did have one in Salem, but only the most die hard traditionalists ever enrolled their kids there. Most of the American Wizards, he had met so far, held a great deal of disdain and contempt for the few people that still opted for the Salem School. They considered them hopelessly old fashioned and doomed to a life of uselessness.

The majority of the magical population in the United States simply attended their normal high school along with everybody else. During the school year some of them were home schooled in magic as well but the majority simply concentrated on the standard school curriculum.

Then, in summer, they would attend Summer Camps where they would spend a couple of incredibly hectic months undergoing intensive and comprehensive training in all areas of Magic.

This did not mean that they were unable to use magic for most of the year. No, on the contrary - magical American children were encouraged to use their magic as much as possible in the privacy of their own homes. The Americans believed that this built up the child's power and strength in the Magical Arts. It was only the training, in new spells and magical theory, that was restricted to the summer camps.

Harry had already signed up for one of the most well regarded magical training courses at just such a camp and he was looking forward to it eagerly. The one he had chosen even had an excellent Quidditch program and he was bouncing in anticipation of getting on a broom again. Flying was the thing he still missed the most after all. He had tried surfing as a substitute and had discovered that catching a wave on a board was as good as flying when it came to the sheer adrenalin rush. Now, if only he could stay on the board for more than ten seconds at a time.

~oo00oo~

Hermione leaned back in her chair and luxuriated in the warmth of the sun's rays. That was the best bit of coming to Australia, she thought. They had left England in the middle of winter but here in the Southern Hemisphere it was summer. True, that didn't always mean much here in Melbourne where the weather was notoriously fickle. "All four seasons in one day," was the phrase that she had heard repeated by countless Australians. They even managed to sound proud about the fact. Still, the weather today was absolutely lovely and she had just finished browsing in a wonderful bookstore in St. Kilda and was finishing up her outing at one of the many cake shops that lined Acland Street. Even Hermione, the child of two dentists, had not been able to resist trying one of the incredibly delicious looking slices of cake.

She still couldn't believe how differently the Australians did things. There was no hiding away in an alley only accessible through a dingy pub. No, here the wizards and witches lived right amidst the normal non-magical population. Even the bookshop, which had one of the best collections of magical books she had ever seen, had been an absolute revelation. Not only was it a magical bookshop but it was a magical bookshop that catered to muggles as well. Instead of hiding the whole store behind muggle repelling charms, as would have been the norm in England, here it was simply the books that were spelled. All the magical books would look like ordinary textbooks to any muggle that came across them. Particularly dense organic chemistry and quantum mechanics textbooks, according to her Mother, who had accompanied her.

Yes, she thought that she could come to love living here in Australia.

The only blemish on her otherwise rosy outlook was a little matter with her new school. It was a great school, filled with cheerful students and staff, and she had already made tentative friends with a couple of the students she had met so far. No, the only problem was that as soon as she told them she was transferring from Hogwarts, the very first thing the staff did was to sign her up for the Remedial Courses in both Defence and Potions.

No amount of begging and pleading would convince them otherwise. According to them any student from Hogwarts had to be trained up in the basics for Defence and Potions, no matter how good her grades were or how high her IQ might be.

She growled under her breath. She, Hermione Granger, was being forced to take remedial classes. The...the indignity...the sheer bloody outrageousness of that fact made her want to scream. Part of her wanted to go back to England just to kick Dumbledore in the...Well, let's just say that he would be walking funny for days after she was through with him.

Still, hopefully she could test out of the remedial classes after some time. She would never be able to live with herself if she didn't.

~oo00oo~

Sirius Black was a very happy man. The weather was truly wonderful, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky and the sea was that incredibly lovely shade of iridescent blue that you only found in these parts of the world. He had a utterly delicious Mojito in his hand and his beach chair, which he had just settled into, had a perfect view of a group of girls in bikinis that were playing a spirited game of volleyball. Life did not get much better than this.

He had just placed an order for another Mojito when the mirror in his pocket buzzed. He grinned widely to himself; it looked like things were, in fact, getting better. The little trap he had set at the Ministry before leaving England had just been triggered. Months ago, a large black dog had sneaked through the Ministry and made its way into the Hall of Prophecies. Sirius snorted as he remembered how ridiculously easy it had been. It was truly pathetic how incompetent the Ministry was at times. He pulled out his mirror and relaxed back into his chair. He really should order some popcorn, he thought. That should go perfectly with what he was about to see on his mirror. Whatever the outcome, it was sure to be entertaining.

~oo00oo~

Voldemort was ecstatic, well part of him was. The rest of him was still furious at being forced to undertake this job himself. Still, he had done it. He and his Death Eaters had managed to sneak into the Ministry completely undetected. He was still incredibly annoyed at the incompetence of his minions. Damn them, damn them for not being able to retrieve one little prophecy. If they had been more competent he would not have been forced to come here himself. Still, that no longer mattered. He was here now and soon he would learn the full contents of the prophecy. The prophecy that had been the reason for his downfall all those years ago. The prophecy that he had yet to learn the full meaning of. Soon he would know, he would learn what the future held in store. Then there would be nothing and no one who could stop him. He would rule Britain and crush his enemies into dust.

He glided silently past towering shelves covered with small, dusty glass orbs. They glimmered dully in the light issuing from more candle-brackets set at intervals along the shelves. Like those in the circular room he had passed earlier, their flames were burning blue. The room was very cold. He looked at the end of the closest row. Beneath the branch of blue-glowing candles protruding from it glimmered the silver figure fifty-three. Not much further to go, he thought. The prophecy he was after was in row ninety-seven. Finally, he came to the row he sought and strode down it, peering at the tiny little yellow labels as he passed.

Then, he found it, there it was, right there on the shelf. He read the yellowish label affixed to the shelf right beneath the dusty glass ball. In spidery writing was written a date of some sixteen years previously, and below that:

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.

Dark Lord

and (?)

His wand flicked out as he cast a series of ward detection charms. The security around the prophecies had been impossible to breach, at least by his minions, which was the reason he was here. Still, according to the information he had obtained so far, the prophecy should be readily accessible to the individuals they referred to.

His readings came back and displayed themselves as a set of glowing misty symbols. Hmm, what was there...Not much really, Just a couple of wards - There was the rather interesting ward which made the orb impossible to pick up. This was linked to an identity discerning ward which seemed to control it and enable and disable access to the orb as required. Also bundled in was a rather nifty madness-inducing curse set to inflict anyone who got past the other wards.

The Identity Ward might be problematic, he thought. After all, the prophecy was not labelled as Lord Voldemort or even Tom Riddle. It simply said 'Dark Lord and (?)'. Would the ward identify him as the Dark Lord the prophecy pertained to? Could any Dark Lord pick it up? Why on earth had they not labelled it with his proper name. At the very least, they could have written You-Know-Who if they were too terrified to write down his proper name. What on Earth was wrong with the useless...lazy...son of...frigging bureaucrats. Couldn't even label a prophecy correctly.

Well, there was only one way to find out, he thought as his hand reached out, moved forward slowly and...and…plucked the prophecy from its shelf. He heaved a sigh of relief. It seemed that the ward had indeed identified him as the one the prophecy referred to. Now to listen to it...he raised his wand and prepared to activate the orb.

Sirius Black grinned into his mirror as he saw the Dark Lord gripping the prophecy in his hand. He had added a few additions to the Hall of Prophecies. One of them had been another set of triggers built right on top of the existing security system. Being a marauder had really paid off there. He had hidden his spells well, barely existing, there was just the thinnest, tiniest, slenderest thread of magic leading from the ministries wards to his triggers. Hidden so well, that even the Dark Lord had missed them.

His triggers had been set to do a series of tasks as soon as the identity-discerning ward identified Lord Voldemort. The first task had been set to activate a communication mirror hidden among the shelves. This had notified Sirius who had pulled out his own mirror just in time to see Voldemort lifting the prophecy orb.

The second activated a few other things. There were quite a few items that Sirius had shrunk and secreted around the room the night he left England for good. He had shrunken down and hidden several things in dark dusty corners where they had lain undisturbed for all this time. Now they started expanding. Enlarging themselves back to their original sizes. Spherical shapes were popping into existence all over the room.

The final task had been to activate a charm very similar to that used by a certain red-haired woman whenever she wanted to send a message to any of her children that had not been behaving in the manner that she expected. Similar - in precisely the same way that a Howitzer is similar to a BB gun.

Just as Lord Voldemort was about to tap the dusty orb that was clutched in his hand with his wand, the final trigger activated and Lord Voldemort heard a sound. A sound that blared forth from every surface within the room. A sound that drove him to his knees as his ears exploded with pain and every bone in his body vibrated along with the sound waves. A voice, which could have been mistaken, just based on sheer volume alone, with the voice of god said -

"LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, LORD MOULDY SHORTS IS IN THE BUILDING"

Voldemort rose to his feet, his ears still ringing. A trap, it was a bloody trap, he thought. He had to leave; he had to escape the ministry. As long as no one saw him, there would be no proof that he had returned. He had to leave. He had to leave immediately. A tune started playing. A tune that he vaguely remembered from his childhood. His wand spat out a spell that coated his ears. It would protect his ears if the sound got loud again but should still let him hear normally. Then the words started - Sung to the tune of Mary had a little lamb.

Voldemort wears mouldy shorts,

mouldy shorts, mouldy shorts.

Who dared? Who would dare? Who could possibly dare to mock him. HIM! The Dark Lord Voldemort!

Voldemort wears mouldy shorts,

He would kill them. He would kill them, their entire family and their pet dog as well. He would slaughter them and bathe in their blood.

mouldy shorts, mouldy shorts.

He raced towards the exit from the room. He had to leave now. At least he still had the prophecy, he thought as he gazed at the dusty glass orb still clutched within his hand. That brief millisecond of distraction proved to be rather costly to the Dark Lord as it was at that very instant that a flying iron ball flew straight into his hand with force enough to break a normal man's hand. He was tougher than most men though and the ball barely bruised him. What it did was to knock the orb straight out of his hand.

The orb flew out of his hand and bounced upon the ground. Voldemort's wand flicked out as he prepared to summon the orb back to him. He was just a little too late as an iron ball smashed down right on top of it with enough force to shatter the stone tiles of the floor.

Voldemort stared in disbelief at the shattered fragments of the orb, after all that...he had been thwarted by a...by a damned BLUDGER!

Voldemort has a teeny peeny,

The bludger flew right at his head. He sneered, did they really expect a bludger to injure him. Casually, almost lazily, he fired off a blasting curse. It hit the bludger and obliterated it in an explosion of white dust.

White dust? That was odd. Bludgers were made of iron; the debris should not have been white. The force of the explosion had dissipated the dust in a fine cloud that was floating in the air. His eyes widened in realisation as he cast a spell. A full body shield would keep the dust away.

teeny peeny, teeny peeny,

Unfortunately for him, he had realised the danger just a bit too late and his shield did not keep all of the dust off him. Pure white crystalline powder was settling on him. Some landed on his exposed skin, his eyes and he could not help inhaling some of it.

It's as small as it can be.

He was burning. He was coughing. His skin, his eyes, his nose and his throat. Everything burned. He could barely breathe. Vanishing charms had no effect. A scourgify had no effect. He was burning, burning, burning. He was blind. His men who had been guarding the door came running towards him. Purebloods to a man, they ran straight through the cloud of dust without stopping. Seconds later, they collapsed on the ground clawing at their skin, their eyes. They were going into convulsions and seizures, writhing on the floor in agony.

Voldemort has a teeny peeny,

A group of girls that had been playing volleyball on the beach were surprised by the howls of laughter coming from a dark-haired man. He was rolling around on the sand laughing his head off as he stared into what looked like a small mirror. They shrugged and went back to their game. There was always someone getting drunk on the beach.

"How do you like that, bitch?" laughed Sirius Black. "That, my friend, is pure capsaicin powder. Wonderful stuff, isn't it?" He would not stop laughing for a long time.

teeny peeny, teeny peeny,

It's as small as it can be.

Voldemort lay on the ground. More bludgers were bouncing wildly of his shield and ricochetting off to inflict damage upon the room. He crawled to the door maintaining his shield by sheer force of will. He was the Dark Lord Voldemort. He would not be brought down by this.

And everywhere that Voldy went,

Voldy went, Voldy went,

Everywhere that Voldy went,

His stink was sure to go.

~oo00oo~