Don't Panic – Only 780 Weeks until the Next Dark Lord
a/n – Everything recognizable from the Harry Potterverse is the sole property of JK Rowling and her various and sundry corporate partners. I hope no one is offended by the joke at the end since it's usually told featuring a pair of more infamous individuals, but Harry has to work with what he's got.
Chapter One – A Dark Lord and a Death Eater Walked Into A Bar
1430 2 May, 1998, an antechamber off the Great Hall, Hogwarts School of W&W, Scotland
"Minerva, I'm so glad you could join us."
As Kingsley Shacklebolt, Acting Minister of Magic and Artemus Bagnold, self-appointed Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot since he was next in line when the Wizengamot was dissolved last fall entered the room; Minerva stood up from where she had been seated next to the fireplace and smiled thinly. Seeing that they were closing the doors and sealing it, she quickly used her wand and cast a series of privacy and security charms on the room.
"Thank you, Headmistress," Kingsley said smoothly as he motioned to a pair of chairs that were setup facing Minerva's. As both he and Bagnold seated themselves, he chuckled at the wary expression on Minerva's face.
"I'm not trying to jinx anything, but since it will take the better part of a month to establish a working quorum of the Wizengamot, considering the number of families that have fled Britain over the last year, Artemus and I are going to exercise the authority of our offices during this 'crisis' and see you installed as the permanent Headmistress of the school. That should make getting things done around here easier than waiting for the members of the Wizengamot and the Board of Governors to come trooping back from whatever rock they've hidden themselves under."
Seating herself, Minerva looked at both wizards carefully before answering. Taking a deep breath, she nodded to Kingsley before turning her attention to his companion.
"Artemus, it's been a while, but I'm a bit surprised that you would unilaterally take up the mantel of Chief Warlock." Pausing for a moment as she carefully studied her old classmate, she sat back in her chair.
"It's my understanding that a good third of the Board has disqualified themselves. Augusta thinks she can get word to Ogden, and I believe that this is enough of a disaster to coax Muriel into attending a meeting. Since you're the Chief Warlock, Artemus, you can declare the seats held by Malfoy, Travers, and Sorrenton vacated, which means we only need four to declare a quorum instead of five."
"Let's not be hasty, Minerva," Bagnold said smoothly. "You remind me too much of my sister Millicent, and she got retired to her farm in the Cotswolds after the last war ended. Albus, for all his faults, had the right idea after the last war and after the Grindelwald war. We can't go shipping people off to Azkaban left and right. Now's the time to bring our world together to move forward from this period of …" Pausing for a moment, Bagnold smiled and finished with, "This period of unpleasantness."
Staring at him in disbelief, Minerva shook her head slightly. Focusing her attention, momentarily over their shoulders, she took a deep breath and turned her attention to Kingsley.
Mr. Minister, I take it you're going to concur with Artemus' sentiments," she asked in a voice that put Kingsley in mind of his first day at the Auror Academy with Mad-Eye asking him a question that he knew was loaded, but he was obliged to answer anyway.
"Minerva, surely you're as aware as any exactly how small and insular our society is …"
"Due mostly to the fact that the majority of muggleborns who don't marry into one of the older and more established families leave Britain for a more congenial climate." Holding up her hand she glared at both of them.
"Even before this recent bout of 'unpleasantness'," Minerva snarled with a fair amount of venom poured into the word, "started, almost three quarters of my muggleborns were sending me holiday cards from the Americas or Commonwealth states by the third Christmas after they left Hogwarts. In the past seven years it's gone from a flood to a veritable deluge. Since the muggleborns and the muggles paid most of the price, especially this last year, I can't see any policy that doesn't include very public trials and the full weight of the Wizengamot brought against not only the marked Death Eaters but all of their collaborators and supporters would be perceived very poorly, both here and abroad."
Taking a deep breath, she stared at Kingsley very intently. "Surely you're not considering listening to another round of 'Innocent by reason of Imperius' pleas?"
"Minerva, there are going to be a series of very high profile and very public trials. We're going to start with our former classmate Riddle. It should be especially effective at healing the wounds in our society when we show how he gulled people, misrepresenting himself all these years."
"By the Four and Twenty, the bloody Sassenach is dead and moldering. His body is lying in a locked storage area outside the Great Hall." Leaping to her feet, Minerva stared at both wizards in disbelief. "I kinna believe that the best you two teuchters could come up with is a totally meaningless show trial for a dead man."
Pacing furiously back and forth, she began ticking off names on her fingers with her wand. "Thickness first, whether or not he was imperioused, he needs to be questioned publicly and under Veritaserum.
"With the exceptions of a handful that were part of the Resistance, like Arthur Weasley and a couple of others, everyone who was at the Ministry this past year with more responsibility than the interns who sorted the owl-post needs to be thoroughly examined and stand trial if they were an active part of these atrocities.
"Here at Hogwarts, the Carrows both should be dancing with a dementor before the sun sets, but I'll settle for a trial sometime before Bonfire Night. Down in London, you should start with the vile piece of work behind the Muggle Registration evil. Dolores …"
"We're going to need long time dedicated employees like Dolores to get things back to normal in short order," Artemus interjected smoothly. The beatific look on his face fell as the atmosphere in the room began to become oppressive. Looking around for a second, he turned his attention back to Minerva.
"Don't look at me," Minerva demurred, resisting the urge to smile at the obvious discomfort of the two wizards. "Apparently Hogwarts doesn't think any more of your ideas than I do."
Focusing her attention on the newly minted Acting Minister, she sighed. "Kingsley, you were a member of the Order, and you saw exactly how badly Albus' policies and methods turned out."
Before he could answer, she swung her sights back to her old classmate. "Artie, exactly how do you propose to put the Ministry back on a stable footing if you seem insistent driving the majority of the younger generation out of the country? Not publicly prosecuting absolutely everyone involved with this will do nothing to keep the survivors here in the country from leaving, much less enticing those who have already fled Britain into returning."
"Minerva, the strength of our culture has always been the old, established families," Artemus smoothly began missing the sharp look that Kingsley sent him. "Once we stabilize things, get a sense of normalcy back in our daily lives, the muggleborns will see that we are making things stable with their best interests in mind."
Pausing for a moment, he added, "And if they don't, there's always more where they came from."
Letting his last comment hang in the air, Minerva looked at both wizards for a long moment before shaking her head.
"Other than trying to jolly me along by confirming me as Headmistress, I feel that there is another point for this visit."
"Yes, Minerva," Kingsley replied enthusiastically. "We've been up to Gryffindor Tower trying to find young Harry. I've spoken to the Weasleys. Both young Ginny and Ronald are concerned about where he and Miss Granger have gotten themselves off to. You wouldn't have any ideas as to where he might be?"
Blinking in surprise, Kingsley looked over to his companion for assistance, clearly not expecting that response from Minerva.
"Minerva, we've been trying to find the boy since shortly after the battle. He disappeared with his two friends, but no one's seen him for several hours. We'd like to discuss coordinating all of the public events over the next few weeks, let him know what we're planning regarding the memorial services and the like so he can be there to support the Ministry as we put things back together."
Pinching the bridge of her nose. Minerva stood in the middle of the floor and just shook her head in disbelief. Without opening her eyes or looking up, she simply asked, "Kingsley, do you happen to remember what happened the last time a fool of a Minister tried to strong arm Mr. Potter into supporting the Ministry?"
"Young Harry never had a very good relationship with Cornelius," Kingsley began in a cautious tone of voice. "I'm hoping that with the bit of rapport we've developed over the years …"
"Damn it, Kingsley. I was talking about Rufus' misguided attempt at getting Harry to support the Ministry the day of Albus' funeral. Even if the two of you weren't out of your minds with this reconciliation scheme of yours, today would not be the day to start talking to the lad about public appearances."
"There's no time like the present …." Artemus began smoothly, only to be cut off as Mount McGonagall erupted with a blast to make Krakatau seem like a sparkler.
"You great bloody fool. There are people dead out there. People the lad knew. People the lad loved. The two of them are faced with raising a toddler because the parents of their godson are both dead. They have classmates hanging on by a thread and people they both considered to be family dead in the Great Hall and the only thing that they need less than some idiot reporter pestering them for an interview is for you two trying to badger them into a series of Ministry sponsored dog and pony shows."
Taking a step towards them, and seeing that both wizards gave way before her, Minerva fixed them both with a withering glare. "I'm not certain exactly how you've concocted these ideas, but I can guarantee you one thing."
Taking a deep breath, Minerva looked around the room for a moment, apparently taking a visual poll of the portraits around the room. Nodding abruptly she turned her attention back to the two wizards who were watching her warily.
"Unless you want the June first edition of the Mystic Times Free Press to have the announcement that Harry Potter and Hermione Granger are now expats living in the States and are planning on finishing their education at the Salem Academy, there had better be a list of trials scheduled that includes everyone involved in this entire sordid affair."
Pausing for a moment, she glared at her old classmate before turning her attention back to her former student. "Mr. Minister, and if Dolores Umbridge's name isn't on the list, then I'm serving you with official notice that Miss Granger, Mister Potter, and I will draw lots to see who gets the privilege of challenging that piece of work to an honor duel in the Atrium of the Ministry."
Pausing for a moment as Kingsley's features paled, which was amazing considering his heritage, she added dryly, "Though I imagine Filius will want in on the action since a number of his muggleborn Claws were tortured by that cow."
"And that's the type of thing that we can't have, people unilaterally seeking a mistaken sense of 'justice'. Our culture, our society is hanging by a thread and holding to petty, childish grudges isn't going to heal it." Pausing for a moment, Artemus struck a pose reminiscent of one Albus used to take in front of the Wizengamot from time to time and intoned, "The 'Greater Good' of Wizarding Britain …"
Before he could finish, a pulse of light almost painful in its intensity filled the room, interrupting his proclamation. While the lenses of Minerva's glasses darkened until they were almost black and protected her vision somewhat, both Kingsley and Bagnold were blinded by the flash.
However, their hearing was totally unaffected, so they heard exactly how much venom was in the next voice that spoke.
"I swore an oath that I would gut the next spineless coward who spouted that twaddle, so to keep Hermione from lecturing me after the fact, I felt compelled to interrupt you, this time," came a voice from the corner of the room.
Low and resonate, power accompanied the voice and suddenly the room was filled with a pair of presences that were overwhelming.
A second voice, female and filled with just as much power as the first, chuckled and answered.
"Harry, as long as we're on a flight to Australia within eight hours of the last funeral, you can do what you want to idiots like these two."
As both wizards blinked furiously and their vision returned, slowly, they looked around and saw that both Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were standing in the corner of the room that they had previously thought was empty. Harry was glaring at them with a look that Kingsley had last seen directed at the Dark Lord and Hermione was shaking her head, sadly.
"Kingsley, I'd thought better of you," she chided. Looking over at Professor McGonagall, who was scowling at both wizards, she smiled. "Lord Acton was correct, absolute power corrupts absolutely."
"He also pointed out that great men are almost always bad men," Harry commented in an off-hand manner. "But that didn't excuse Albus and it certainly doesn't excuse you two."
Looking less than sure of himself, Kingsley stepped forward and tried to smile confidently. It didn't work and he had a look on his face reminiscent of Cornelius Fudge.
"Harry, Hermione, we've been looking for the two of you. The Weasley family is very worried about the two of you and some of your friends were starting to get concerned."
Shaking his head, Harry looked at Hermione for a second before digging into his pocket and handing her a galleon. Rolling his eyes at the smirk on her face, he turned his attention back to the Acting Minister.
"Kingsley, we let our 'friends' know that we were going to be dealing with a few things that needed to be taken care of. If you would have spoken to anyone except for the Weasley family you would have saved yourself a bit of bother."
Seeing the blank looks on both their faces, Hermione huffed in annoyance. "Honestly, both of us know other people besides the Weasleys. They lost a son today; they had bigger things to attend to than keeping track of a couple of legal adults."
Looking over at Minerva, Hermione smiled warmly. "We were able to talk to Mrs. Tonks, as soon as things settle down, her late husband's firm will file all of the parchmentwork regarding our godson."
"Godson?" Artemus asked in a puzzled voice.
"Yes, it was common knowledge within the Order and the Resistance that Remus and Dora chose Harry to be young Teddy's godfather." Seeing the knowing look on Kingsley's face and the surprised one on Bagnold's, she continued.
"They also asked me to stand in as their son's godmother, so Harry and I are going to be raising young Teddy Lupin in honor of the faith they expressed in us."
"I would have thought they would have chosen Arthur's …" Trailing off at the look on Hermione's face, Artemus stopped and smiled thinly. "I'm certain that the parents made an inspired choice."
"I'll get back to you in a few years on that once we see what we're able to do raising our son," Hermione quipped cheerily. Looking over at Minerva, she smiled sadly.
"Though it's not looking good for him being on the Express in September of '09, Headmistress."
Seeing that the knut dropped for Kingsley before it did Bagnold, she rolled her eyes.
"Told you they wouldn't get it."
Blinking in surprise, Kingsley narrowed his eyes and looked at Harry. "Don't you think that today's a bit soon to be making big decisions on how to go forward?
"Mr. Minister," Harry began, he voice very serious though he was smiling, "Yesterday, today, or ten years from now the attitudes that almost required the appearance of a Voldemort will be unchanged unless you start changing them right this very second. The attitudes that allowed Grendelwald to come to power on the Continent half a century ago; the attitudes and archaic beliefs that bring England a dark lord every thirty years or so aren't going to change unless you start changing them now."
Pausing for a moment, Harry chuckled and shook his head. "I heard a story once that will explain it."
Seeing that the two were watching him intently, and he could feel Hermione rolling her eyes, he began.
"Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy walked into the Hogs Head after the final battle," Harry began ignoring Bagnold's muttered 'He's dead, isn't he?"
"As they were standing there at the bar, trying to figure out what went wrong; Voldemort finally decides that he didn't start big enough. He turns to Lucius and says 'We didn't make them fear us fast enough. The next time, we're going to start big. Our problem was that the first month we tortured 5,000 mudbloods and muggles, raised the Dark Mark over their burning hovels, and then slaughtered the greeting witch who worked at the apothecary shop in John o' Groats.'
"Before Lucius could answer, Dolores Umbridge looks up from her gin and gin and asked, "Why did you kill the greeter witch from the apothecary?' At which point, Lucius exclaimed, 'Brilliant, you're correct, no one cared that we killed the mudbloods and muggles.'."
And with that, Harry and Hermione turned and left the room.