Wow. I really cannot believe the number of reviews that this story gets with each chapter that comes out! It has almost twice the number of reviews as my next most-reviewed story and this one is far from being done yet!
For those of you who quite rightly pointed out that the quote about all evil wizards coming from Slytherin actually came from Hagrid rather than Ron, thank you, but please cut me a tiny bit of slack here and there. Ron still said it in the first film and it pretty much sums up his whole attitude to Slytherins anyway.
Anyhow, on with the show!
Harry Potter: Junior Inquisitor
Chapter 21: The Malfoy Matter.
Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, was sitting at his desk riffling through some paperwork. It was a little later than he usually liked to stay in the office, but paperwork doesn't fill itself out. Well, not all of it, even with magic.
He often wondered what would happen if everyone in the world, both wizard and muggle alike, one day just decided to stop filling out the paperwork and just get on with the tasks at hand.
But, by Merlin, it was boring work, all this paperwork!
The words on the page before him were blurring before his eyes. The hour was late, and the subject matter was so abysmally dull that his eyes were failing to focus on the scrawling handwriting.
He set the piece of parchment down and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes wearily. To be honest, he did not see why he even had to look over this proposal. Why anyone thought that he needed to look over a proposal to increase the standard thickness of the bases of pewter cauldrons from seven inches to eight was beyond him. This sort of thing should have been sent no further up the ranks than the writer's Department Head.
And anyway, increasing the standard thickness of the bases of pewter cauldrons was not how a Minister went down in the history books! To do that, you needed to aim high. You needed to either win a war (preferably being the protector rather than being the belligerent) or you made a revolution in your society.
Fudge intended to use the revolution method, and his targeted area to revolutionise was the field of education. For years, perhaps even decades, the standard of magical education in the UK had declined dramatically, and the Wizarding Examinations Authority had the results to prove it. Hogwarts could once accurately boast that it was the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry in Europe, and one of the top magical schools in the world.
It could not boast that now. Oh, the boast was still bandied about from time to time, but others knew better.
So that became Fudge's target. Initially he had targeted the standards at Hogwarts in order to get back and Dumbledore and to gain a few points with the press, who had been taking repeated jibes at him ever since Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban two years previously.
However, after realised the true enormity of the scale of the decline in education quality at Hogwarts, Fudge had realised that this could be his way to be remembered – the man who lead the government that revolutionised magical education in the UK, and restored Hogwarts to the number one spot.
Things really were progressing nicely along that front too. He had the full support of both the Wizarding Examinations Authority and the Hogwarts Board of Governors. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was ready to go if they were required to investigate any serious wrongdoings, and Dolores Umbridge was now positioned inside Hogwarts, providing inside information and biding her time until she could take on a larger role. According to the Daily Prophet, his approval ratings were climbing ever higher and would soon overtake the peak that they had previously reached shortly before the Quidditch World Cup final was hosted in the country.
Yes, things were quickly shaping up just the way Cornelius Fudge wanted them.
A knock on his office door drew him out of his thoughts and, after collecting himself, he called out "Enter."
His recently appointed secretary, Gemma Farley he believed her name was, stepped into the room and said "Sir, Lucius Malfoy and his wife are here. They're demanding to speak with you."
The Minister felt his stomach clench a little. He had been informed about Draco Malfoy losing his prefect badge due to the higher standards being applied to the prefects, and had been warned to expect a confrontation with the Malfoys who, doubtlessly, would want overrule the authority of those who confiscated Draco's badge.
Of course, Lucius was an old friend of Fudge's, but one whom the Minister had been slowly distancing himself from lately. Everyone else was being strong on the issue, now it was his turn.
"Send them in," he told Gemma, who gave a nod before leaving.
Not a moment later, the door to the room swung open forcefully and Lucius Malfoy strode in as if he owned the place. He had done this before, but this was the first time that the Minister had taken especial notice of it, and he found that he did not like it. Not one bit.
Lucius's wife, Narcissa, followed her husband in at a more sedate pace.
"Minister, I think you need to have a word with some of your staff from the Wizarding Examinations Authority," said Lucius, not even extending a greeting.
Fudge bristled at this. Now that he had been prepared for it, he saw Lucius's tactic for what it was as clear as day. "Oh, really?" he replied "And why is that?"
"Those imbeciles have gotten it into their heads that they can strip my son of his prefect position at Hogwarts," replied Lucius, either not noticing or not caring that his demeanour annoyed Fudge "Obviously somebody is attempting to overstep their mark."
"Well," said Fudge as he began to rummage through a stack of parchments "it just so happens that I was sent a list of the transgressions that led to the decision to demote your son from the role of prefect. Aha, here it is!"
He pulled out a sheaf of parchment and began to read aloud "Well, it seems that his first offence was bullying several other students on board the Hogwarts Express as it made its way to the school."
"Preposterous," said Narcissa "my son is no bully."
"It says here that he was caught red handed by another prefect and the student advisor, leading a gang of his fellow Slytherin students in intimidating behaviour towards three girls, two in their school year and one two years their junior."
"Ridiculous," scoffed Lucius.
Fudge moved on to the second offence "Refusal to co-operate with an investigation into alleged misconduct by a Hogwarts Professor."
"My son had the right to request a parent be present," argued Narcissa.
"I'm afraid not," said Fudge "if the questioning was about your son then he would, of course, have been allowed to have one of you present. However the questions were about events within the school and prefects are required as a part of their role to assist in any investigations into misdeeds within the castle, whether the investigation is done internally or by an external body."
He moved on "The third, and final offence, a combination of things, actually. Back-chatting to government officials and school governors, lack of respect for authority, neglecting to perform basic prefect duties, refusal to co-operate with the student advisor and failure to learn from past mistakes."
He set the parchment down and looked at the two parents sitting across from him "The behaviour of your son should not be tolerated from any student at Hogwarts School, and from a prefect even less so. I fail to see what you could possibly complain about here. Your son was in the wrong, and now he is paying the price for it.
The Malfoy's shared a look, and the Minister knew exactly what it meant. They were about to try their second tactic.
Lucius cleared his throat and attempted to appear humble as he tried to subtly slip his hand inside his cloak.
"Minister," he began, leaning forwards over the desk in an almost conspiratorial manner "while I admit that my son's behaviour has been a little out of line, this whole thing could prove rather embarrassing to me. If you could perhaps see to it that this whole this is kept quiet and sweep it all under the rug, I would be very grateful."
He leaned back into his seat and the Minister saw it there, a small, black pouch sitting on the edge of his desk. He knew from past experience that this small, non-descript looking pouch was actually charmed to be much larger on the inside and would therefore contain a good number of galleons.
Fudge felt sick on the inside. How many times had he, to his shame, fallen to this little trick in the past? Well, not this time!
With an expression of calm on his face, he drew his wand and levitated the pouch off of the desk and directed it back into Lucius's lap.
"You can keep your gold, Lucius," he said "Your boy is in the wrong and will be punished accordingly. End of story."
Lucius was seething. He stood up abruptly, not noticing that he had knocked the pouch of gold to the ground, and place both hands firmly upon the Minister's desk as he snarled "Now see here Fudge-"
But the Minister wasn't in the mood for backing down "No, you see, Lucius! Your son is in the wrong. He will be punished. Nothing, I repeat, nothing will get this decision reversed. I appreciate that you are both here out of concern for your son and family, but if you continue to behave like this then I am afraid that I will be forced to call for the Aurors, either to arrest you or forcibly remove you from the building. And believe me, either of those options would do more to damage the Malfoy family name your son losing his prefect's badge!"
Lucius Malfoy's mouth worked furiously, but no sound came out. Finally he turned around and marched out of the office. Narcissa followed him.
As the door shut behind her, Fudge realised for the first time that he was standing. He took a deep breath and then sat back down in his chair. He then realised that he was actually shaking, and not out of fear but anger.
He reached for the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a glass and a bottle of brandy. He poured himself a shot and held it up in front of him.
"Well done, old boy." he congratulated himself before downing the contents of the glass.
His secretary poked her head around the door and asked "Everything alright, Minister? I thought I hear shouting."
"Everything's fine, my dear," replied the Minister. He got up again and walked around the table. In doing so, his foot connected with the small black pouch that had fallen to the floor earlier. He bent down to pick it up, and then stood up again with a smile on his face.
He called his secretary back "Gemma. Mr Malfoy very kindly left us a charitable donation. Please ensure that this makes into the fountain of magical brethren as you leave tonight."
With barely a sound, Lucius Malfoy apparated out of thin air just beyond the front gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His wife arrived next to him and together they began making their way up to the castle.
As they passed through the gates an enchantment detected them and sent a message up to the school.
Professor Aurora Sinistra was sitting in her office, getting her first real taste of what it was like to be the Head of Slytherin House. Currently she was going through the disciplinary and academic records of Blaise Zabini, hoping that he would qualify for the role of fifth year prefect.
So far it wasn't looking good. The boy didn't get into as much trouble as the other boys in his year (at least not outside the classroom) but clearly his work ethic left a lot to be desired. Homework was usually late, and when it was handed in it was substandard. In lessons was usually getting into trouble for not paying attention.
Looking through Draco Malfoy's records had shown that the boy was even worse than this. Both Zabini and Theodore Nott were better than Draco, but they were still poor candidates for the role of prefect.
And the less said about Crabbe and Goyle the better.
Initially she had thought that perhaps Snape had appointed Draco to be prefect as he was the best of a bad bunch. Now she was of the opinion that it had been a show of favouritism.
The sound of someone coughing in the far corner of her office drew her attention, and she looked up to see that the sound had come from one of the portraits handing on the wall.
Seeing that it had her attention, the portrait spoke to her "A message from the castle to the Head of Slytherin House. The Lucius Malfoy and his wife Narcissa have just passed through the front gates of the school."
"Very well," she said to the portrait with a nod of her head "Thank you."
She put the records pertaining to Crabbe, Goyle, Nott and Zabini away, but left Draco's out. It was likely that she would need it.
"Mipsy, Mopsy, Topsy and Tipsy!" she called out, and four House Elves appeared in the room.
"Yes miss?" the four chorused.
"I need the four of you to relay a message to four different people. One of you go to Professor McGonagall, one to Madam Marchbanks of the W.E.A, one to Madam Longbottom of the Board of Governors and one to Harry Potter. Tell them that the Malfoys are on site and ask them to come to my office."
The four elves nodded and each one disappeared as Professor Sinistra went to her office door. She intended to intercept the Malfoys in the Entrance Hall.
Argus Filch was in the Entrance Hall, using a mop and bucket to clear away some muddy footprints when the Malfoys arrived.
Lucius was in a foul mood due to the fact that his meeting with the Minister had not gone his way and, after glancing around to check that no one else was around, he decided to vent some of his frustration upon the caretaker.
"Squib," he barked "I wish to speak with my son's Head of House. Go and fetch Professor Snape."
That made him feel better. Then again, calling people derogatory names, putting them down and ordering them about always had that effect on him.
Filch gripped the handle of his mop tightly out of anger. As much as he might want to, he knew he couldn't swing the mop around and clout the arrogant ponce over the head with it, no matter how much he wanted to.
So instead he settled for taking great delight in bursting the man's bubble "Didn't you hear? You old pal Snape went and got himself demoted."
"What?" demanded Lucius, his joy evaporating.
"Snape ain't the Head of Slytherin anymore," replied Filch, driving the barb home "and by all accounts, if he keeps on going the way he has been, he won't be in the castle much longer either."
Lucius felt his anger beginning to boil again, but shoved it down. He made a mental note to relay this news to his Lord and Master as soon as possible, before asking "Then who is the new Head of Slytherin?"
"That would be me," said Professor Sinistra, who had just arrived in the hall to hear the question asked "if you would like to follow me, we'll have this discussion in my office."
She turned on her heel and began striding back towards her office. The two Malfoy's shared a look before following on in her wake, ignoring Filch as they passed him.
Professor McGonagall was already waiting outside Professor Sinistra's office when they arrive.
"What's she doing here?" asked Lucius with a scowl.
"I asked her to come," replied Professor Sinistra "She is, after all, the Deputy Headmistress of this school."
Neither Malfoy argued that point, but both were worried. They were used to working with Severus. This Professor Sinistra was a virtual unknown to them, but having McGonagall there to back her up could not be a good thing as far as they were concerned.
Just as the group was entering the office the fireplace in the corner roared into life with emerald green flames. Two women stepped out one at a time, the first being Augusta Longbottom and the second Griselda Marchbanks.
"Thank you for the alert, Professor Sinistra," said Madam Marchbanks.
"Thank you for agreeing to help clear up matters," replied the Astronomy Professor.
Lucius felt his stomach clench painfully. He had been hoping for a word with Severus to get this little issue fixed up, but now he was going to have to deal with McGonagall, Marchbanks and Longbottom, as well as this Sinistra woman.
"Can we begin?" asked Narcissa.
"No, we're waiting on one more," replied Professor Sinistra. A moment later there was a knock at the door.
"That'll be him," said Professor Sinistra before calling out "Come in!"
Lucius saw red at the sight of the person who entered the room.
"Potter! What on earth are you here for?"
Harry affected a puzzled look before asking "Why Lucius, surely you must know about my new role within the castle?"
Lucius's mouth snapped shut. He was aware, of course, of Potter's new role as student advisor, but that didn't mean that he had to like it!
"Perhaps we should all take seats?" suggested Professor McGonagall.
Agreeing to this, everyone sat down; Harry, Professor Sinistra, Professor McGonagall, Madam Marchbanks and Madam Longbottom on one side of the desk, the two Malfoys on the other.
"Right then," said Professor Sinistra "I presume that you are here to enquire about your son's loss of his prefect status."
"We are," replied Narcissa.
"Starting this year," said Madam Marchbanks "a full scale review of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has begun. This is being done in an attempt to bring standards at the school to a much higher standard. As a part of that, Mr Potter was chosen to become the student advisor. Amongst his tasks that relate to this role, he is required to assess all prefects to make sure that they are up to appropriate standard."
Harry took over "During the first prefects meeting of the year, I presented to the prefects with this," Here he took a roll of parchment out of his robes and unfurled it before placing it onto the table for all to see.
He continued "It is a copy of Educational Decree Number 25. This decree was personally signed by both the Minister for Magic and the Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, and it clearly explains about my new position and what it means for the prefects. That they were now being held to standard was made crystal clear to them and every prefect present indicated that they fully understood the situation."
Professor Sinistra began speaking "The first prefects meeting of the year takes place on board the Hogwarts Express near the beginning of the journey. Before the journey was over, Mr Potter, with the assistance of several other prefects had been forced to intervene in a situation of severe bullying. Your son and his fellow fifth year prefect, Pansy Parkinson, were both the aggressors in the situation and as such, both were awarded a strike against their name."
Narcissa tried to refute this with the same line she had used at the Ministry "My son is no bully!"
Lucius however, tried to shift the blame elsewhere "Obviously Mr Potter here got a little over-zealous with his new position of authority and blew a mere disagreement between students out of proportion."
"Eight other prefects and the Head Boy can all attest to my description of events on the train to be accurate," replied Harry, calmly "Only your son and his little friends seem to think that outright intimidation, name calling and physically striking someone does not count as bullying."
Professor Sinistra moved on "Your son earned his second strike by refusing to co-operate with Ministry officials who were conducting a review of the behaviour of a member of Hogwarts' staff, namely Severus Snape. This is in spite of his position of prefect requiring him to do so."
Having already gone through that one with the Minister, neither Malfoy parent argued. They knew that there was no wriggle room there.
Privately Harry wondered if such a rule existed for prefects in schools located in the Muggle world. He wasn't sure of the answer.
Sinistra continued "And finally your son was disrespectful to Ministry officials and members of the school's Board of Governors in the middle of the Great Hall in front of the gathered student body, and then refused to complete a task assigned by the Student Advisor. In this he earned his third strike and displayed an utter contempt for his position and an inability to learn from his mistakes. As such, the decision was made to strip him of his prefect's badge."
"This punishment," said Madam Longbottom "has been reviewed by representatives from the Board of Governors and the Wizarding Examinations Authority. Both groups have concluded that the punishment is just and will stand."
"Any more questions?" asked Madam Marchbanks
For a while, neither parent said anything. Lucius was fuming, but Narcissa seemed both thoughtful and resigned.
Finally she broke the silence "Would we be able to bring our son home until after the weekend? Perhaps this will allow tempers to cool down and we can talk some sense into him."
"I think that would be a wide idea," commented Professor McGonagall.
"Agreed," said Professor Sinistra "I will escort you to the Slytherin Common Room so that you can collect him."
She and the two Malfoys got to their feet and began making their way towards the office door.
However, Lucius was a prideful man who always liked to get in the last word, and today was going to be no exception.
At the door he turned back to face those in the room and said snidely "This school was once great, but ever since that fool Dumbledore was put into the top spot this place has gone downhill. Rest assured, we will be seriously rethinking Draco's continued schooling here."
Harry locked eyes with the man and replied "Do then!"
In that moment, the tension in the air of that little office room could have been cut with a knife. And it was in that same moment that Albus Dumbledore decided to make his entrance.
Without even the common courtesy of knocking and waiting to be invited in, he pushed open the door and walked straight in.
"Aha. Here you all are."
"Why are you here, Albus?" asked Madam Marchbanks.
"I was alerted by the school's wards that Mr and Mrs Malfoy had arrived and was hoping to speak with them. Aurora, you should have informed me of the location of this meeting."
"I was unaware that you wished to be a part of this meeting, Headmaster," replied the Astronomy Professor, blithely "you did not volunteer your services with Mr Potter asked for assistance in dealing with the Malfoy parents, so I assumed that you were trusting others to work the situation out."
"Nevertheless," continued Dumbledore "I am here now. Let us discuss the situation at hand."
"No need, Headmaster," said Harry "the situation has already been resolved. All have agreed that Draco Malfoy's punishment will stand, and his parents were just about to find him in order to take him home until after the weekend so that they can try to reason with him."
Dumbledore looked like he had just swallowed a particularly sour lemon drop. Finding his voice again he asked the Malfoys "Are you certain that this is the best option?"
"There are times in life where one must concede defeat, Headmaster" replied Narcissa "and there are also times in life when it is best that tempers be allowed to cool down. This is a time when both must happen."
Dumbledore gave a resigned nod of his head and stepped aside to allow Professor Sinistra and the Malfoy parents to pass through the door.
Once they were gone, Harry stood up from his seat and said in a bright and cheery voice "Well, that went well. Madam Marchbanks, Madam Longbottom, Professor McGonagall, thank you very much for your help in resolving this little situation. I trust that I can count on the three of you again should the need arise?"
After getting three acknowledgements, he thanked them again and said "Well, if you'll excuse me, I must be off. I want to catch Professor Sinistra on her way back, to see if she has any thoughts on the replacement prefect. Goodbye."
And with that, he turned and walked out of the office without giving so much as a look of acknowledgement to Dumbledore as he passed the man.
By breakfast the following morning, the news that Draco Malfoy had been taken home by his parents was all over the castle. Of course, the rumour mill greatly embellished upon the truth, with many students thoroughly convinced that Harry Potter had personally expelled his schoolyard nemesis.
"Are you planning on telling them the truth?" asked Hannah as they ate breakfast.
Harry looked over to the Slytherin table, where more than a few students kept stealing fearful glances towards him.
"At dinner," he replied finally "I've put up with enough crap from that house over the years. Let them stew in their worry for a couple of hours."
Susan laughed as Hannah shook her head and went back to her scrambled eggs.
Lord Voldemort was sitting upon a throne-like chair in the Grand Hall of Malfoy Manor. In front of him, Lucius Malfoy was hunched over on the floor and trembling, having just suffered the effects of the cruciatus curse.
Voldemort was a firm believer in not killing the messenger, but that didn't mean he didn't vent his frustrations upon the bringer of bad news.
The Malfoy whelp losing his position of prefect was hardly of any concern to Lord Voldemort. Of course, having the son of one of his inner circle of Death Eaters hold a position such as prefect at Hogwarts did have its advantages, but in the grand scheme of things those advantages were miniscule and therefore largely inconsequential.
No, the bad news that Lucius had brought was that Severus Snape had been demoted from his position as Head of Slytherin House at Hogwarts.
Voldemort had, of course, been aware that the Ministry was currently spear-heading a movement to increase standards at Hogwarts and for the most part the news has pleased him. He knew of many of Dumbledore's more recent recruits and how most of them would not stand up in the face of even the slightest bit of scrutiny, something which could only backfire upon Dumbledore himself.
However, Snape losing favour was an unprecedented blow to his own forces. As their spy within the castle, any sign of wrongdoing had the potential of robbing Snape, and thus Lord Voldemort, of vital information. People would be far more wary around the man from now on.
The situation was, without a doubt, regretful, but still yet salvageable. Snape was still in the castle he was still teaching, he still had Dumbledore's ear and he still had access to Potter, even if it was limited.
Of course, things could currently go one way or the other. Snape was on the ropes, and there were a lot of people awaiting his fall.
Voldemort would have to summon Snape soon, and remind him as to just how important it was that he remained within the castle walls.
A cruciatus curse or two ought to do the trick.
At the moment he had no major plans, other than to mostly sit back and wait. He knew full well that the Ministry was working very hard on the task of toppling the great Albus Dumbledore from his pedestal of greatness, and once Dumbledore fell his followers were sure to follow.
Of course, with the Ministry completely denying the fact that he, Lord Voldemort, had returned to power, that would be the perfect time for him to put in a very public appearance.
Yes, he rather liked that plan – allow the Ministry to topple Dumbledore, and then he would come in and topple the Ministry. So long as he kept a check on his spies within the Ministry, toppling that institution should be relatively simple, especially compared to his previous attempts during the last war. Then there had been many Aurors, and their department was well funded. Now, his Ministry sources could reveal, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement was under-staffed, ill-equipped and squeezed for finances.
In the meantime, however, Voldemort was free to focus his efforts onto one particular plan that he did have going, which was the difficult task of getting into the Department of Mysteries and locating that blasted prophecy, something which he was certain he had not heard in full previously. Once he had his hands on that, he was certain that he would be able to destroy the last obstacle in his way to complete power – Harry Potter.
A/N: So how was that? I hope you enjoyed it. Some people have been asking to hear from Voldemort again, so I gave you a scene with him right at the end.
We had Fudge growing a backbone, the Malfoy's not getting their own way, a charitable donation, a cameo from the girl who was Slytherin's fifth year prefect when Draco first arrived at Hogwarts (though never names in the books), the powers that be at Hogwarts standing together, Dumbledore getting stepped on, Harry winding up a few of his former tormentors and a "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." type moment with Voldemort. What else could you want before Christmas?
This may end up being the last update for this story before Christmas. However, I do plan to get out another chapter of Harry From Another World by then, and I have a Christmas story ongoing that I will be working on for the festive season called Harry Potter: Father Christmas's Apprentice. Give it a look if you want something light-hearted and festive to read.
In the meantime, I'll wish you a Merry Christmas! Have a good one (and if you don't celebrate it, enjoy yourselves in whatever it is you celebrate this time of year, and if you celebrate nothing at this time of year, then still enjoy yourselves… I'm rambling now.)