Sorry for the delay. I don't really have an excuse, except that this chapter was being difficult and refused to be written. Anyway, enjoy!
Harry Potter: Junior Inquisitor
Chapter 7: The Proposition
The door to the telephone box swung open as the nasally female voice said "The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant day."
A young man, who looked to be in his early twenties, stepped out of the telephone box and began to make his way across the atrium of the Ministry of Magic, heading for the security desk. The young man had light brown hair that reached down to his shoulders, and his eyes were a deep blue in colour.
This young man, of course, was Harry Potter. Glamour charms really could work wonders. Today Harry was meeting with the Minster for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, to discuss plans for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The disguise was necessary due to the fact that Albus Dumbledore likely had people within the Ministry of Magic who would tell the old man about Harry turning up at the Ministry, should they see him. As it was, Harry Potter appeared to be just another anonymous face in the crowd. Dumbledore was also the reason that Harry was using the visitor's entrance rather than using the floo network. Floo travel was monitored, and Dumbledore might just have one of his people in that department. However, the visitor's entrance was not monitored.
The meeting had been thoroughly planned for, but Harry was still nervous. There was a lot that could go wrong, especially if the Minister decided that he did not care for some of Harry's suggestions.
Sarah Abbott's dreamless sleep potion had, thankfully, worked wonders the night before, and Harry had not been troubled by visions of the part of Voldemort that resided within his scar, resulting in a rest filled night for all residents of the Bones family manor house.
At the security desk, Harry was greeted by Amelia Bones. Her insistence to the guard on duty that Harry was with her saw the man wave Harry on through without checking his wand.
Madam Bones escorted Harry over to the lifts, for appearances' sake, and then left him to it. Harry would be on his own for this meeting, as it would do no good to have the Minister suspect Harry of being a puppet controlled by Amelia.
The Minister knew to expect Harry to arrive in disguise.
After several stops to allow various other people to get on and off of the lifts, Harry finally stepped out onto Level One, which was home to the Minister for Magic and related administrative personnel.
Harry walked by several doors, including one marked "Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic" and another marked "Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic" before coming to one with a golden plaque that read "Minister for Magic" in resplendent lettering.
The door to the Minister's office opened slightly, just enough to let none other than Percy Weasley, the Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic exit the room.
The young man, only a few years older than Harry himself, looked Harry up and down before asking "And who might you be?"
"Archibald Gunderson," replied Harry "I have an appointment to meet with Minister Fudge."
"Very well, I shall see if he is ready to receive you," said Percy.
Harry gave him a polite nod of thanks as he turned back to the room.
A moment later Percy returned and said "Right this way, Mr Gunderson."
"Thank you Mr" here Harry took a deliberate look at Percy's name badge "Weatherby."
He saw a muscle twitch on the side of Percy's face as he walked past the Junior Assistant and into the Minister's office.
Cornelius Fudge looked up from some paperwork on his desk and smiled "Ah, you're here. Good."
He gestured with his wand towards the door and it swung shut and locked.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice, Minister," said Harry politely "Um, if you would?"
He gestured to his face.
"Oh yes," said Fudge, drawing his wand again "Of course. Finite Incantatem."
The disillusionment charms on Harry's face faded out, causing the appearance of Archibald Gunderson to disappear, and the visage of Harry Potter to show.
"Excellent spell work by Madam Bones," said Fudge happily as he settled himself back into his seat "Now, as to why you are here. I understand that you have a few thoughts on how the Ministry intends to handle its tackling of the seriously falling standards at Hogwarts School?"
"Yes, sir, I do," replied Harry "And may I just say first of all what a relief it is to me that the Ministry is stepping in to address the situation at Hogwarts. I have been concerned for quite some time about a few of the things that go on up at that castle, and yet have never felt that there was anyone that I could turn to in order to discuss these issues."
"Is that so?" asked Fudge "And what things have you been concerned about, Mr Potter?"
"Quite a number of things," replied Harry "First and foremost, however, is security," at this leaned forwards in his chair and asked "Did you know that a fully grown Mountain Troll wandered into the castle one night during my first year?"
Fudge's eyes widened in surprise.
"Oh yes," continued Harry "It was all hushed up, obviously, but this thing apparently got into the castle and got down into the dungeons where it was seen by the Defence Professor who, rather than take the thing down like any competent Defence Professor would, ran up to the Great Hall to announce it to the whole school. By the time the beast was found again, it was destroying the girls' bathroom up on the first floor. A girl in there was nearly killed, and others would have been had they not been in the Halloween Feast."
Fudge was gaping at him "Why I – Well – I mean," he stammered "Well there were rumours of course, but nothing more was ever said on the matter…"
Harry nodded and said "Of course nothing was ever said of it. Dumbledore couldn't have that getting out now, could he? Then people would know of his mistake."
"What mistake?" asked Fudge.
Harry didn't like to say this next bit, as it meant that he had to be seen as thinking of the welfare of Slytherin students, but none-the-less it had to be said.
"Once the Defence Professor had informed the school of the Troll's presence, the great and wise Albus Dumbledore ordered everyone return to their House Common Rooms. But here's the thing, at that time the Troll was last known to be in the dungeons, and the location of the Slytherin Common Room is-"
"In the dungeons," Fudge finished for him, shocked "But surely they had a few teachers providing an escort, just in case?"
Harry shook his head "No, sir, they did not. The students were left in the care of the prefects."
"Dear Merlin," muttered Fudge, sitting back in his seat "Imagine if the thing hadn't moved off elsewhere…"
"The Slytherins could have walked right into it," said Harry.
Fudge shook his head before asking "Any other examples?"
"Where to begin?" said Harry "In my second year, how long did those attacks on Muggleborns go on for before the perpetrator was finally stopped?"
Fudge nodded "I heard more on that matter than I did of the Troll. Wasn't it Arthur Weasley's daughter acting under the influence of a dark object?"
"It was," replied Harry "Looking past the obvious question of how no one noticed that she was being possessed, the more serious question is how did such a dark object get into the school in the first place? I mean, I'm no expert, and I do not pretend to be, but surely there must be ways of detecting objects so evil that they can possess the mind of the one holding it?"
"There are a few spells that can be used to detect if an object is dark," replied Fudge "I don't know how to cast them myself, but they are used by Aurors who raid the homes of Dark Wizards."
"And yet those same spells are not used to keep Hogwarts students safe," said Harry "I know that it is highly unlikely for students to bring dark objects to Hogwarts, but Healers in the Muggle world have a saying which is "prevention is half the cure." I'm sure you can see how such a thought can be applied here."
Fudge was nodding with understanding "Yes, I can see what you mean. Stop the thing from even getting into the castle, and you've solved the problem before it can become one. But how would such a feat be accomplished?"
"Well for one," said Harry "when students get off of the express train at Hogsmeade station, they leave their trunks and things on the train, and those things are taken up to the school by, well I presume by the House Elves. How much trouble could it possibly be to have a couple of people spend half an hour walking the length of the train, firing off the detection spell at every trunk in every compartment, just to be safe?"
"Well, I cannot see that being too much of a problem at all," replied the Minister "What's half an hour of a few Aurors' time so that we can all have a little piece of mind?"
"Exactly," said Harry "A small change, but a significant one. It is likely that they will turn up nothing each and every time, but it is far better to be safe than to be sorry."
The Minister was nodding eagerly as he took a golden eagle feather quill, dipped it in some ink and wrote down of a piece of parchment before him Discuss with Amelia about having two Aurors scan the luggage on the Hogwarts Express.
Harry smiled and thought to himself "That's one idea given the green light." Having already discussed his plans with Madam Bones, he already knew that she would agree with the Minister on this matter. Of his proposals, that one was the one he was most certain would get approval from Fudge, as it was a small change that would not cost too much, and yet would still make the Ministry look very good in the eyes of the wizarding public.
Having finished writing the note, the Minister looked up at Harry and asked "Are there any other concerns, Harry?"
"Well, obviously you are no doubt aware of the situation at the school last year," replied Harry "What with that Death Eater who went around disguised as Alastor Moody and who tried to kill me. Well obviously my concern there is how did a man go around the castle for nearly the entire school year and not get caught? I mean, I know that he might have ended up obliviating one or two people, but still…"
"You are concerns about other people infiltrating the school and using Polyjuice potion to avoid detection," Fudge finished for him.
"Exactly," said Harry "I mean if he did it, what is there to stop someone else from doing it? If a parent comes up to the castle in order to take their child away from the school for whatever reason, what attempts are made to ensure that it really is the parent and not some oddball?"
The Minister was nodding at his words and replied "I can see exactly where you are coming from Harry. That business last year was a terrible breach in the security of Hogwarts. I don't know whether or not Dumbledore planted that man inside the castle to serve as part of his elaborate plans, but either way someone like that being inside the castle walls and with access to students is inexcusable and efforts must be made in order to ensure that it cannot happen again."
He was already scribbling furiously on his parchment before he had finished talking.
Harry continued "There are also a few issues with some of the teachers at the school, Minister."
Fudge looked up from his note taking "Oh yes?"
"Not so much the quality of the education, you understand," continued Harry "though that does remain an issue in several areas. No, what I'm talking about is, well… it's their personalities, to put it bluntly. There are some members of staff who are very knowledgeable about their particular field to be sure, but just seem to lack the temperament required to pass that on to another adult wizard, far less teach a classroom full of students."
"Are we talking about anyone in particular?" asked the Minister.
"Well, there is Professor Snape for one," replied Harry, making sure to force himself to use Snape's title as it sounded more respectful "He come billowing into the dungeon classroom, waves his wand at the blackboard so that the instructions appear and then tells us to get started. After that he spends the rest of the lesson stalking around the classroom making everyone feel uncomfortable. Then when most of the potions brewed by the class go wrong, he calls us all dunderheads. He never takes the time to explain things or dish out useful advice and if anyone ever asks such a thing he either ignores them or insults them for not already knowing it."
"Good gracious," muttered Fudge "He sounds like an awful teacher."
"He is," replied Harry before leaning over the table to say conspiratorially "Most students hate him. They dread going to potions class because it forces them to spend time in his company. And he doesn't help himself with his awful temper."
The Minister was nodding "Yes… Yes, I remember that little outburst the night Sirius Black escaped from Hogwarts. A most unpleasant man."
"And had that irrational belief that I had somehow been involved with Black's escape," added Harry.
"I do recall that," said Fudge "I said to Dumbledore that night that the man was unbalanced. But Dumbledore insisted that he wasn't."
"That's Dumbledore for you," replied Harry "He is utterly convinced that his pet former Death Eater is a changed man and will listen to nothing that proves otherwise. The students gave up complaining long ago. They feel that there is no one that they can turn to."
"And that," said the Minister "is exactly why I wish to place Dolores Umbridge inside Hogwarts School. She will be there in order to review all the staff within the school and address the seriously falling standards within the castle. I just need a way to get her into the castle."
"I actually might have an idea on that front, Minister," said Harry "And it will also address the problem with another member of staff."
"And which member of staff would that be?" queried Fudge.
"Professor Binns, Minister," answered Harry "He is the ghost who teaches History of Magic."
"Dear Merlin!" exclaimed Fudge "You mean to say that Old Binns is still teaching? My word, he was putting classes to sleep when I was attending the school."
"Then you have first-hand experience of the issue," said Harry "I trust that you can see how detrimental to the education process a teacher as dreary as Professor Binns is."
"Of course," said Fudge "But how can that get Dolores into the castle?"
"Pass a ruling that prohibits Ghosts from holding academic posts," replied Harry "In that way you can get rid of Binns and put Madam Umbridge into the castle to take over the roll."
"I can only do that if Dumbledore fails to find a suitable candidate for the post," said Fudge.
"So don't let him know until the last moment," replied Harry "Don't give him the time to out manoeuvre you."
"Yes," said the Minister thoughtfully "You my boy have something there, you really do. We'll get the law approved on the day the students are all returning to Hogwarts, thus eliminating the potential of Dumbledore filling the History of Magic Post. He won't be able to, as he'll be far too caught up in getting the final preparations in place for the start of the school year. Excellent."
Harry smiled. His plans were working. He had horror stories about other members of staff as well, including Professor Trelawney, who taught Divination, and several Defence Against the Dark Arts Professors, but the two stories given appeared to have been more than enough to get Fudge's attention on the matter.
Now though it was time for the main event.
"Minister, I hope that you don't mind my asking this, but are you sure that Madam Umbridge will be up to this task?"
"What do you mean?" asked Fudge, and there was a sharp edge to his voice now.
"All I mean is," said Harry "that it will be her up against the entire school. With the odds stacked like that, I cannot help but wonder if she might benefit from a little help."
"Help?" asked Fudge "In what way?"
"Well, in addition to all the usual responsibilities of a teacher, she will also, as you said, be tasked with reviewing all the other staff within the castle, addressing standards across the board, dealing with students… surely she could use a little assistance. Someone to lighten the load a little bit."
"But if I were to try and place someone else in the castle, then I would need to find another position on the staff for them," said Fudge.
"What if you used a student for the role?" asked Harry "What if there was a student at Hogwarts, appointed by the Ministry, to help Madam Umbridge in her endeavours by, say, acting as a go-to person for the students and their problems?"
"Isn't that what the prefects are for?" asked Fudge.
"In an ideal world, yes," replied Harry "But to be honest prefects are a little too much associated with discipline, what with their patrolling the corridors at night, and their acting as an authority figure within the common room. Add that to the fact that they are appointed by the teachers, and you end up with students feeling that they cannot approach the prefects. What I am suggesting is a student who, while obviously tied to authority to a certain extent, acts as a slightly more independent body than the prefects are from the teachers. This student would be approachable by all students from every house in order to listen to their problems and offer up advice. He or she would also have the authority or dish out punishments is required, obviously. And, aside from all this, the student would act as a filter between the students and Madam Umbridge, only bothering her with things that the student really cannot handle and leaving her to deal with her bigger tasks. This student would also be able to act as the voice of the students at any faculty meetings."
Fudge was nodding in understanding. What Harry was essentially describing was a prefect, but this one would be a prefect assigned by the Ministry, and Cornelius Fudge very much liked the sound of that.
Harry and Madam Bones had discussed the possibility of putting Harry's name forward for the role straight away, but they had decided against it. Such a thing might put the Minister off of the plan. Madam Bones would be sure to put Harry's name forward at a later time however.
"Very well, young Harry," he said "Obviously I shall have to discuss this with a few others, but I am reasonably certain that such a plan can be put into place. Was that all?"
"It was Minister," said Harry "And may I just say again what a relief it is to me that the Ministry is stepping in to address the situation at Hogwarts. Long overdue."
"Yes, I quite agree," said Fudge "Well, if that is everything, Harry, I do have some meetings to arrange."
"Certainly Minister," said Harry, standing up "Um, would you mind…?"
Fudge looked up "Oh yes, of course."
He drew his wand and cast a few glamour charms. The result was not quite what Madam Bones had achieved earlier, but Harry would still pass as being Archibald Gunderson.
Harry left the office and headed back towards the lifts. He gave a slight nod to Percy Weasley as he passed him, and managed to control his smirk when he saw Dolores Umbridge.
Harry got into the lifts which, after a few stops to let others in and out at the various floors, he was returned to the Ministry Atrium.
He walked by the security desk, where Madam Bones was waiting. They did not make eye contact, but as he was passing her, Harry gave a surreptitious thumbs up. He then made his way towards the visitors' entrance and left, intending to catch the Knight Bus back to Bones Manor.
About an hour later, Harry entered the kitchen of the Bones family manor and was met by Sarah Abbott.
"I've got a surprise for you," she said as she used her wand to get rid of the glamour charms on him.
"Oh yeah?" asked Harry "And what might that be?"
"My lovely daughter is here," replied Sarah with a smile.
Harry's shoulders sagged a little before he said "Look Sarah, it's been great getting to know you, and I appreciate everything that you have done and are doing for me, but if you are expecting me and your daughter to just suddenly start getting on like a house on fire then I'm sorry, but you're barking up the wrong tree."
"I whole-heartedly agree," replied Sarah "Which is why I don't expect the two of you to suddenly get along with each other. That's why she's here. The bridged between the two of you need to be rebuilt, but that cannot happen if the two of you don't go anywhere near each other."
Harry gave a groan and allowed his head to droop forwards before muttering "Fine. I suppose that I should at least make the effort."
"Thank you Harry," said Sarah "That's all I ask."
Harry smiled, but said nothing more. He had said he would make the effort to get on with Hannah, but there would be no friendship between them until Hannah acknowledged how she had wronged him in the past.
He followed Sarah into the drawing room where Susan and Hannah were seated on a long sofa, talking.
When Harry walked in both girls went quiet and looked up at him. He smiled at them, but headed straight over to the armchair in the corner. A book of his was lying open on the arm rest.
He had only just sat himself down and picked up his book when Hannah surprised him by coming over to him.
"Harry," she began "I have come to realise that my treatment of you in the past has been unfair and, at times downright cruel. This is a result of my paying far too much attention to the Hogwarts rumour mill and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to you. I also wish to express my hope that I might get the chance to get to know Harry Potter the person, as opposed to Harry Potter the myth. Susan tells me that she has been getting to know the real Harry, and he sounds like someone I would like to get to know."
Harry was so surprised that for a moment he was unsure of what to do in response.
Finally he settled on standing up and saying "Apology accepted. And if you are truly interested in burying the hatchet and starting again, than I will be more than happy to oblige."
Here he held out his hand to her and said by way of introduction "Harry Potter, pleased to meet you Miss…?"
Hannah smiled at him and shook his hand, replying "Abbott. Hannah Abbott, and I'm pleased to meet you too, Mr Potter."
That night as he settled into bed, Harry thought about the events of the afternoon. Hannah's apology had surprised him, but he had been even more surprised by how easily he had accepted it. But on thinking about it, he knew why he did so. Rather than simply give a cover all "I'm sorry" Hannah had also acknowledged what it was she had done wrong, which was he basing her opinions of him upon Harry the myth as opposed to getting to know the real Harry and basing her opinions of his upon what she found out. Susan had later pulled him aside to apologise for making the same mistakes as well.
Harry found that he much preferred that as the way to go in the future. If someone wronged him, they would have to acknowledge what they did wrong and apologise for it. It was what he was going to expect from Ron and Hermione once he was back at Hogwarts, anyway.
The afternoon spent in the company of Susan and Hannah had made for an interesting one to say the least. It had been the first time where he spent time with Susan where they were both just being kids, and Hannah had certainly helped out with that feeling, as one thing in particular that Harry had learned that afternoon was that Hannah had a slight crush upon Harry's dorm mate Neville Longbottom. Hannah had kept quiet on the matter, but her reddening cheeks as Susan teased her on the matter all but confirmed it. It had been fun to watch the two girls tease each other, especially when Hannah brought up Susan's soft spot for one Eddie Carmichael, a boy whom Harry only knew by name, along with the fact that he was a member of Ravenclaw house and was in the year above them at school
As he thought about it, Harry could not help but smile to himself. Hannah would be very good for Neville. The boy was very shy, and Hannah seemed like the kind of person who could help him to break out of his shell.
Perhaps he ought to introduce the two of them once they were all back at Hogwarts.
He didn't know enough about Eddie to decide whether or not he and Susan getting together would be a good thing.
On some level he doubted it.
Harry blew out the candle on his bedside table and closed his eyes to get some sleep. Between his successful meeting with the Minister, and his improving relationship with the two Hufflepuff girls, Harry considered today to have been a very good day.
Unfortunately for himself and everyone else in the house, his thoughts on the day had distracted him from completing a very important task.
Harry Potter went to bed without taking his dreamless sleep potion, and the house was once again woken up in the wee small hours of the morning by his screams.
That damned Horcrux had to go!
A/N: So what do you think? I thought that Harry explained his thoughts well enough, and his desires are not too unreasonable. Yes, Susan and Hannah have now patched things up with Harry, but everything is not yet completely rosy – that can only come with time. Harry does not really know either girl all that well yet, and nor they him.
Got some interesting responses to the "Lord" thing. There are no clear front-runners yet, but I do have my favourites. Keep the suggestions coming. The title is not that important for the story at the moment, and Harry won't be taking it for a while yet. If he does so know, he will be showing his hand to Dumbledore, and Harry's got Hogwarts to deal with yet.