Sorry this has taken so long – reasons for this, if you are interested, are noted at the end.
Previously I have tried very hard to keep this story from Harry's point of view as much as possible, but I felt that this chapter was a good place to look into the other three factions and how they are coping with current events.
Harry Potter: Junior Inquisitor
Chapter 9: The Minister Makes his Move
It was a while before Harry Potter woke up following his ordeal. Without opening his eyes, he tried to get his bearings, but he could not tell where he was. The smell and the general feel of the air about him suggested that he was in a medical facility, but it certainly was not the Hospital Wing of Hogwarts Castle. There was hardly any noise to be heard, just a few people breathing. Ignoring the sounds of his of breaths, Harry guessed that there were two other people in the room, but who they were he could not tell.
One thing he knew for certain however was that he ached all over. Every muscle in his body seemed to be throbbing slightly in pain.
Deciding to discover just where he was, Harry opened his eyes.
"Mr Potter," said a man's voice as his eyes opened "Welcome back to the land of the living."
Harry blinked several times before making to sit up. Before he could shift too much, however, a hand was placed onto his chest and he was gently pushed back down onto the pillows.
"Easy there Harry," said Sarah Abbott, the one to whom the hand belonged. She raised a small crystalline goblet to his mouth and instructed "Drink this."
Without question Harry drank the potion contained within the goblet. It tasted awful, but almost immediately he felt the dull ache in his muscles ease off.
"How are you feeling?" asked Sarah.
"Alright," replied Harry "But what happened? Where am I?"
"You don't remember?"
Harry shook his head, no.
"You are in one of the healing rooms of the Department of Mysteries, Mr Potter," said the man's voice again. Harry looked over to see that it was the Unspeakable, Algernon Croaker.
That kicked Harry's mind into gear, and he asked eagerly "The exorcism, did it work? Is Voldemort's soul fragment gone from my body?"
"No and yes," replied Croaker.
"I don't understand," said Harry "How can that piece of Voldemort's soul be gone if the exorcism didn't work?"
"During the process of the exorcism the soul fragment managed to take control of your body, Mr Potter," said Croaker "Using its knowledge and your power it was able to break free of the magical barriers we had in place. We were then led on a merry chase throughout the Department of Mysteries until you yourself were able to regain control of your body. In doing so you forcefully ejected the soul fragment from your body and it was destroyed."
Harry shuddered "Voldemort had control over my body? How many people were killed?"
"Fortunately for us, no one died," replied Croaker "With you in at least partial control, any killing curse fired simply missed completely. Your courage and strength thwarted him that much right from the beginning. We had quite a few injuries when half of the Hall of Prophecies was brought crashing down on all our heads, and some of those injured were in a bad way, but nearly everyone has recovered. One or two will require a few more days' bed rest, but otherwise they're all fine. In fact the only person in the past twelve hours that we have had to worry about is you."
"Me?" asked Harry, who was trying to get his head around the fact that he had nearly killed so many people- 'No' he told himself 'Voldemort nearly killed them. I was doing my best to hold him off… I was the reason he hit no one with the killing curse…' He needed to keep on telling himself that, as the only other option would lead to a dark and spirally path of depression.
"The effort involved in fighting such a strong opponent for so long left you magically exhausted," explained Croaker "To be honest we are surprised that you have recovered so quickly. Usually it takes around a week to recover from the level of exhaustion you were suffering from."
"So how long have I been unconscious?" asked Harry.
"A little over forty eight hours," answered Sarah "It's Sunday evening."
Harry nodded thoughtfully before asking "So how did I get rid of the soul fragment? You said that I forced it out of my body, but how…?"
"It was a combination of your determination to not allow him to hurt anyone, and the added benefits of a room here in the Department of Mysteries that you managed to stumble into."
"What room is that?" asked Harry.
"It is a room dedicated to studying a magic that is older than any other," replied Croaker "A magic that is also perhaps the least understood, especially by the cruel and the wicked."
"And what is that magic?"
"Love" said Croaker "Through some strange means that we do not even begin understand, your entering that room, with so much ambient love-based magic in its atmosphere somehow weakened the soul fragment, and it began to scream as if in pain, allowing you to force it out."
Although that seemed vague, Harry thought he understood "So the evil creation of Voldemort could not survive contact with magic that was so pure… and innocent."
Croaker gave a single nod of his head in answer.
"Why don't I remember any of what happened?" asked Harry.
"It is to be expected," said Croaker "Magical exhaustion on the scale that you attained is usually accompanied by temporary memory loss, especially with the trauma of your situation. Now, I've kept your attention long enough. Get some rest."
And with that he left the room.
Harry remained quiet for a few long moments before turning his head towards Sarah and asking "So, what else have I missed?"
In answer, Sarah picked up a copy of that morning's Sunday Prophet and handed it to Harry.
The front page was dominated by a picture of Cornelius Fudge, standing alongside Dolores Umbridge, Madam Bones and number of others, all of whom Harry recognised from his trial before the Wizengamot.
Above this picture was the headline "Wizengamot Seeks Hogwarts Reform."
The article below read;
In a surprise move last night, the Wizengamot cast a majority vote in favour of instigating a reform to education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. So far the only known subject provided by the school's curriculum to be targeted is History of Magic.
In a press release immediately after the Wizengamot session concluded, Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge stated "We have been concerned about the standards of education received by our children at Hogwarts for quite some time now. Our initial major concern was with Defence Against the Dark Arts, a subject which has been taught by a new teacher every year for quite some time, leading to disjointed learning for the students. However a far more serious threat to the quality of education at Hogwarts has been brought to the forefront of our concerns. History of Magic is regarded as a dull lesson by almost every student within the school, and it is not helped in the slightest that the subject is being taught by a ghost. Further investigations proved that since his death in the early eighteenth century, he has not kept up with increasing standards. Nor do the more recent events of our history make it into his lessons."
Wizengamot Elder and Governor of the Wizarding Examinations Authority Griselda Marchbanks had this to say – "I've always liked and respected Albus Dumbledore, the current Headmaster of Hogwarts, but one thing that we have always disagreed on is the teaching of History of Magic. Albus likes to insist that Professor Binns is as capable a teacher as anyone, but the examination results of the past few centuries tell a completely different story. No one bothers to take the subject for their N.E.W.T level examinations, instead electing to drop what they perceive as a tediously dull subject altogether."
When asked how the Ministry planned to rectify this travesty, Minister Fudge replied "Well to start with we voted in favour of casting a ban on ghosts holding teaching positions. Now that is not to say that a ghost cannot pass on knowledge or advice if it so chooses, but they can no longer be a professor at the school. Of course with it having been several centuries since anyone took a higher level qualification in the study of History of Magic, our choices for a new professor were extremely limited. In the end we elected to send in Dolores Umbridge, the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, to act as Professor and to get a full assessment of the situation we now find ourselves in."
Lucius Malfoy, a close friend and confidant of the Minister for Magic had this to say – "It pleases me to no end to see that the Ministry is finally stepping in to take control of the seriously falling standards within Hogwarts School. Concerns about the running of the school have been voiced for years, but Albus Dumbledore's supporters' have always managed to block all attempts to make some serious headway with reforming the running of the school. This is the first positive step, of what I hope will be many, taken by the Wizengamot to address the quality of education provided by Hogwarts."
However, not all parties appeared pleased with the outcome of the vote. Elphias Dodge, a long-time supporter of Albus Dumbledore, commented "Quite frankly it is an absolute disgrace. Albus Dumbledore has always run a tight and secure ship at Hogwarts and it will only be after the Ministry interferes that trouble will begin."
To read more on this story, see pages two, three, four, five, six and seven.
To read about Elphias Dodge's alleged dealing with rogue goblins, see page eight.
"Holy crap," exclaimed Harry, setting the paper down "Fudge got her into Hogwarts."
Sarah nodded and said "They circumvented Dumbledore completely. When they tried with the Defence Against the Dark Arts post they were just trying to slip someone into Hogwarts. Now that they have put someone in there to investigate the state of things, Dumbledore really has little to no wriggle room. He might be powerful, but even he cannot block a Ministerial investigation."
"I thought that Fudge was going to wait until just before the start of term to make this particular move," said Harry.
"That was the original idea," acknowledged Sarah "But your arrival at the Ministry on Friday did not go entirely unnoticed. The glamour charms did work, but apparently someone thought that the unknown young man being escorted through the building by the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement warranted further investigation. Dumbledore spent all of that Friday sniffing around the Ministry, calling upon every one of his contacts in each department, as well as a few other people, in an attempt to discover who you were. Madam Bones had a word with the Minister and they agreed that Dumbledore's attention needed diverting, so they called a Wizengamot session for last night, keeping Dumbledore out of the loop. By going after Binns Fudge was able to tackle a weak point, with even some of the staunchest Dumbledore supporters having to concede that something had to be done. There were only a handful of cases like old Elphias Doge's."
"So it's going ahead then," said Harry "the whole plan?"
Sarah gave a nod in reply before saying "You have meeting with the Minister to attend on Tuesday afternoon, so that everything can be finalised."
Harry nodded, fully expecting that to be when the Minister would ask him to be the student who assisted Dolores Umbridge in her Hogwarts mission. He still felt a little unsure about taking up such a role, but it had been he who had played a large part in creating this situation, and while he no longer had any doubts about Hogwarts needing a severe inspection, he knew that an overzealous Ministry bureaucrat like Dolores Umbridge was likely to do more harm than good. The students of Hogwarts, no matter how Harry felt about many of them, would need protecting, and if it fell to Harry to do so, then he would. He just needed to do it in a way that ensured that once Fudge and Umbridge came crashing down (as they would when the truth about Voldemort's return was finally revealed for all to see) that he, Harry, would not be dragged down with them.
He also did not entirely know what he wanted to ultimately happen to Dumbledore. He was sure that the man would be very useful in the inevitable war against Voldemort and his wicked forces, but at the same time Harry had had his eyes opened to the real man behind the grandfatherly mask, and people needed to stop believing that all of their problems could be solved by that one man. It was detrimental to society. He had never thought about it before recent events, but there very much as an attitude at school, especially amongst the Gryffindors, that anyone who did not believe that the sun rose in the sky because Dumbledore willed it to was obviously a dark wizard or witch of the highest order.
That attitude in the least had to go.
Albus Dumbledore was beyond furious. In fact, he could not remember the last time he had been this angry.
How dare that bumbling buffoon Cornelius Fudge, the supposed Minister for Magic, attempt to interfere with his running of his school?
What hurt worst was the fact that there was nothing that Dumbledore could do to stop it. The Wizengamot had voted, with the vast majority voting in favour of the action.
There were, of course, some members that Dumbledore expected this kind of thing from, for they and their families had long sought to supplant him. But that the likes of Griselda Marchbanks had voted in favour of this move was a shock. He counted such people as friends, and their not trusting him to run his school in a suitable manner was as unexpected as it was unacceptable.
This could easily be the start of a long and slippery slope, as anyone with an above average level of brain power would be able to turn this to their advantage. With his running of Hogwarts being called into question, the public would begin to doubt him and others within the ranks of the Wizengamot would gain the courage to make further attempts to go against his will.
This was exactly what he had hoped to avoid when he had retracted his statements about the return of Lord Voldemort. The earlier attempt to force Dolores Umbridge onto the staff through that educational decree had been a nuisance, sure, but had thankfully been avoided by simply filling the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor before the new school year began. This time there was nothing that Albus Dumbledore could do to prevent that woman coming to Hogwarts, and he knew it.
If he attempted to block her placement in the castle, then the Ministry would accuse him of refusing to co-operate with their review of the History of Magic class, and that would only cause the public to doubt Dumbledore even more.
Obviously the Daily Prophet would then ask the key question of "what did he have to hide?"
Too much, was the answer to that. Dumbledore simply could not afford to have the Ministry snooping around Hogwarts castle, reviewing the staff. In fact, the four members of staff that they were most likely to want to get rid of (and in one case already had) were also key pawns in his on-going chess game, which featured the whole of wizarding Britain as the board.
Cuthbert Binns had been essential in keeping the students, particularly the Muggleborns, ignorant about the truths of their world. By keeping the focus of the History of Magic lessons on Goblin Wars, the Muggleborns were left ignorant of the fact that the pureblood run society was stacked heavily against them. Most would struggle to find work after their school years, and inevitably those who did not get stuck in menial positions at the Ministry, or were not fortunate enough to land an apprenticeship with a more open-minded individual (of which the wizarding world contained few) would inevitably end up returning to their roots in the Muggle world, moving in with their parents and working in low-paying jobs in order to put themselves through adult classes.
Those Muggleborns leaving the wizarding world after their schooling did not worry Dumbledore – they had served their purpose and were free to leave. The thing was, Hogwarts School could not be run without Muggleborns. No Pureblood ever liked to hear this, but it was the truth. Hogwarts needed Muggleborns because Hogwarts was not funded by the Ministry. It relied heavily, almost solely, upon admission fees to survive and, of course, Purebloods were not overly fond of parting with their money, especially as for most of them their family name along could get them a well-paying job, whether they were qualified to do it or not. Many Purebloods sent their children to Hogwarts in order for them to "network and connect" with the education being a secondary desire.
Charge the Purebloods too much and they would leave. Therefore Muggleborns paid around three times as much in tuition fees, as it was the only way to keep the school financially viable. If those Muggleborns learned the whole truth about the magical world before their time at Hogwarts was over with, then the mass exodus that was sure to follow would cripple the school's finances and force it to be closed.
Binns was needed in order to keep them ignorant until after their schooling was done.
Sybil Trelawney was also needed in the castle. Not for keeping people ignorant, but for her own safety, and to ensure that Dumbledore maintained the upper-hand against Voldemort.
Before that fateful Halloween night when Harry Potter received his famous scar, Trelawney had made a prophecy to Dumbledore, one that linked Harry Potter to Lord Voldemort, the latter of whom had heard only part of it and reacted by attacking the Potter family. After the events of that Halloween night, Voldemort was sure to be looking to hear the entire thing, and keeping Sybil Trelawney secure inside Hogwarts Castle was best for everyone, even if the quality of Divination classes had to suffer for it.
Severus Snape made for a very poor teacher and, despite all evidence to the contrary, Albus Dumbledore was well aware of that fact. The man was spiteful, ill tempered, biased and had an extremely short fuse, all bad qualities for a teacher to possess. Yes, he was a genius when it came to making potions, but he simply lacked the temperament to pass that knowledge on to others, particularly young students. The man had an attitude of "I already know this, therefore everyone else should as well, and if you don't then you are just a dunderhead and it's not my problem to deal with you."
Nevertheless, Severus Snape was an essential person to have at Hogwarts. As Dumbledore's spy within the ranks of Voldemort and his Death Eaters, the man had to be seen as being close to Dumbledore. Having Snape at Hogwarts ensured that illusions were maintained, and allowing the man to be ruthlessly biased in favour of the Slytherins and against everyone else, especially the Gryffindors, made sure that the offspring of the other Death Eaters sent home nothing but praise for the man. And what did teaching a generation of students to correctly brew potions matter when compared to getting all the information he could on Voldemort's activities?
Rubeus Hagrid was another example to that mould, but in a different shape. To give him his due, the half-giant was very knowledgeable about the various magical creatures found across the globe, especially those of which that were found in the forest, lake and mountains that surrounded Hogwarts. But the man did not have the right temperament to pass that information on. This was not out of a cruel streak like Snape, but rather a combination of his own misconceptions and the relative ease with which he could become flustered. The man had a fixation on large and dangerous beasts and assumed that everyone else felt the same way. And he led students such as Draco Malfoy get under his skin far too easily.
Despite this, Hagrid was still essential to Dumbledore's overall schemes. First of all the man represented a kind-of beacon of hope, although most might not recognise it. With a half-giant occupying a prominent role at the school, people would be led to believe that it was indeed possible to overcome odds that are heavily stacked against you in order to become someone important. That illusion went hand-in-hand with the reasons for Binns' boring lessons, making Muggleborns believe that Wizarding society is not as biased as other evidence points out.
The second reason for Hagrid's importance was that he was one of Dumbledore's "yes" people, much like McGonagall. Hagrid was one of the more extreme examples of the kind of people who thought that the sun rose in the sky because Dumbledore wanted it to, and therein laid his main use. Dumbledore had ensured that Harry Potter befriended Hagrid very early on, and with the half giant going around telling anyone who would listen what a great man Albus Dumbledore was, Harry Potter was sure to develop a similar mind set.
Especially when coupled with his friendship with the Weasley family, another example of strong fans of Dumbledore.
On the subject of Harry Potter, that was where Dumbledore's other chief concerns lay. Following his trial at the Ministry on the twelfth of August, the boy seemed to have simply disappeared, and his continued absence was greatly troubling to Albus Dumbledore.
He had called upon many of his contacts within the Ministry, but he had received nothing in return but for a couple of vague hints. From what he could gather, the trial before the Wizengamot had come to a halt and Harry had left the courtroom to attend a private meeting with Minister Fudge and Madam Bones in the Minister's office. Where he went after that was unknown. What was known was that the trial had been completely called off, with Harry Potter being acquitted of all charges.
So Harry had not been expelled from Hogwarts, he had not been placed into Azkaban prison, and he had not returned to the house of his relatives.
It was infuriating that the only two people who likely knew for sure, Minister Fudge and Madam Bones, were also currently the last two people on earth who would disclose that information to him.
The only saving grace available was that with the involvement of Madam Bones, Fudge was not likely to have done something stupid like send Harry to live with the Malfoy family.
Albus Dumbledore had a sinking feeling that Harry Potter was now in the care of Madam Bones, and with each hour that passed that feeling only got worse.
While she was most assuredly a light-sided witch, Amelia Bones was not one of Dumbledore's staunch supporters and was one of few who were likely to bring him to task when she felt he was acting in an inappropriate fashion.
And if she were to ask the right questions, there was a lot of things she could discover from Harry Potter that Dumbledore really did not want her knowing.
And if she ever got even the slightest hint about those potions in Harry's system…
Dumbledore shuddered. He did not like to think what would happen then. He was sure that he could use his influence to survive the fallout, but there would then be too many questions asked of certain others, and of Severus Snape and Poppy Pomfrey in particular.
It was infuriating that his spy at the trial, Nymphadora Tonks had gotten caught before completing her mission. He had been quite surprised that Madam Bones had come down on her as hard as to take away her Auror badge and boot her out of the Ministry.
But he supposed that he ought to have been thankful, as even though it caused the disappearance of Harry Potter, it allowed him to hire the young metamorphmagus to fill the post of Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor and thus prevent a Ministry spy entering Hogwarts.
Well, prevented it until Fudge pulled this latest stunt.
Sometimes Dumbledore felt like the entire world was against the greater good.
Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, was sitting in his study at home having a quiet celebratory drink.
And why shouldn't he? He was delighted.
After his first attempt had failed, he had now successfully secured Madam Umbridge a place within Hogwarts Castle. Once there she could not only revolutionise the teaching of History of Magic, but also assess the situation with the rest of the school, and also keep an eye on Dumbledore, collecting evidence for when they eventually brought him to task for seeking to overthrow the Ministry.
To be honest though, that was not why he was celebrating, as that decision had been passed by the Wizengamot yesterday, and he had already celebrated that idea.
No, what he was celebrating today was the rather brilliant idea that had come to him just a short while ago. With Dolores Umbridge securing a position within the castle, the Minister had turned his attention to one to the ideas voiced by young Harry Potter.
In their meeting the boy had suggested that the Ministry appoint a student to assist Madam Umbridge in her work. A kind of prefect who worked with her to make the school a better place.
Fudge had spent some time pondering just which student he ought to put into that role. For a brief time he had considered contacting his old friend Lucius Malfoy and asking if his son would like to take on the role. However he had heard through the grapevine that Lucius had been bragging about young Draco receiving his prefect's badge. That meant that the boy had been nominated by his head of house and approved by Dumbledore.
Draco Malfoy therefore was no longer an appropriate candidate.
The puzzle of just who to choose had then troubled Fudge for a short while longer. Then, quite by chance he had passed by Arthur Weasley talking to Perkins and overheard the balding red-head tell the other man that his youngest son Ronald had been made a prefect.
A quick check had shown that Ronald Weasley was a classmate of Harry Potter's, being in the same year and the same house.
And with that discovery Fudge had discovered the perfect candidate for his plans for Hogwarts. For Harry Potter, the very person who had suggested the idea in the first place, had not been made a prefect by Dumbledore.
It made perfect sense: the boy was well known, likeable, and had a good amount of respect for the Ministry.
Yes Fudge could see it now. He would have his people in Hogwarts, and have the endorsement of Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived to support him in his endeavours.
It was fool proof.
Peter Pettigrew was a nervous man at the best of times. His current situation only made this worse.
His master, Lord Voldemort, had collapsed more than two days ago, and had shown no signs of waking up ever since.
Peter was currently tasked with waiting by Voldemort's bedside, watching and waiting for any sign that his master might be beginning to come around. His task would be to alert the healers immediately.
But by Lord Voldemort's bedside was a bad place to be. It left Peter Pettigrew vulnerable.
When he eventually awoke, Lord Voldemort was very likely to want to know what had happened, and as yet no one knew the answer. And not having the answer to something that Lord Voldemort wanted to know was a sure fire way to get yourself hit by the cruciatus curse.
And given a choice between a healer and Peter Pettigrew, the rat animagus knew exactly who the Dark Lord would aim for.
All things considered, today was not a good day to be Peter Pettigrew.
And that ghastly snake curled up in the opposite corner or the room was doing nothing to improve matters.
A/N: Well there you go, I hope that you enjoyed that.
Again, sorry for the wait, but I do have a valid explanation. As regular readers of my author's notes may remember, during the writing of chapters five and seven, I had trouble with focusing on writing – I was not in the right mood and could not get there either. Between the last chapter and this one, I was struck with a different problem, one from the other end of the scale. Creative juices were most certainly flowing, but unfortunately they would not be focused upon the continuation of this story, or any of my other on-going projects. Instead I was hit with an idea for another story, ideas for which just kept on coming, and as they came I wrote them down before I could forget them. It does not yet flow coherently, and instead exists as a series of disjoined notes, bullet points and paragraphs that will need putting together at a later date. Although I now have the notes, I refuse to even contemplate beginning to upload it until such a time as my already on going stories are reduced in number, as I currently have two on-going Harry Potter stories (this one and Jack O'Lantern, which I really need to get back to) one on-going Pokémon story (the anime rewrite) one Harry Potter story on hiatus (Court of Magical Brethren) and one Pokémon story on hiatus (Johto Adventure, which may end up being taken down altogether). Not only that but there is also a possibility of adding more to the "Time Magic" story, and was as more related material to be added to "Logic."
Quite enough for me to be getting on with.
The new story will see the light of day (it is too good not to) but not yet.
Thankfully (at least as far as this story goes) the flow of ideas for that story has subsided for now, and I can continue with this one and others.