Visitor chapter 47
That took far too long to write.. hopefully you will all like it enough to forgive me for that. Finally, the Goblins are here!
He had to force himself to take all of this serious, with an angry Goblin opposite of him and a Mudblood in the seat next to him. It was highly annoying that he had to deal with it himself in the end, but he knew that the Goblins were stubborn, bitter creatures who would otherwise never believe her. He hoped that it wouldn't take long for that to turn around now. He had to admit that she had done a surprisingly good job, and was glad that he had given her a chance with this.
Even when he'd visited Hogwarts and saw them briefly, he had admired Granger more than he had thought he ever could admire a Mudblood, but she was smart, quick, and had ambition, more Ravenclaw than Gryffindor. It made him wonder how she'd even ever been placed in that house. Maybe the Sorting hat was getting dusty. The only thing that really did annoy him about Granger was how light she was in magic, and how idealistic her ideals were. She would have been better off in a fairytale world.
"So, as you can see," she said, in a voice of which the Dark Lord could not decide if it sounded more annoyed than annoying, "I have been speaking the truth to you all along."
"It would seem that way…" Grobblestone, the head of Gringotts, spoke. "Narlbrook, bring me the minutes of last meetings between myself and Ms Granger…" A burly goblin nodded and trodded off, returning soon after with several scrolls of parchment. Slightly uninterested as the Goblin hurried to unravel them, he took in the office, which was of unusual style for Goblins. He had expected more marble and prized possession, but instead it looked very much like an empty vault, with stone walls and the only things lining them being books, not a single piece of gold in sight. Perhaps the Goblin didn't trust to keep gold in his office where other beings than Goblins would visit.
Releasing a slow, irritated sigh as the Goblins went over every small detail of last meetings, he tapped his fingers against each other. Annoying creatures, Goblins… Always looking for nothing but their own profit and sometimes even doing things just out of spite, like In the fourteenth century, when Burdock Muldoon, Chief of the Wizards' Council, attempted to define Beings and decided Beings were any member of the magical community that walked on two legs. Muldoon had invited all Beings to a summit to discuss new magical laws, and the Goblins had brought with them every creature they could find with two legs, including Diricawls,Augureys, Fwoopers, Pixies, Fairies, and Trolls, just to spite the wizards. Needless to say, that ended in chaos when the trolls started smashing everything up with their clubs.
Another thing that annoyed him was their ridiculously short fuse. Not all Goblin wars had started with the issue of wands… A few other reasons included Goblins claiming that an item in the possession of a wizard was stolen, the imprisonment of Goblins, even when said Goblins were serial killers, and once there had even been the Goblin Rebellion that had lasted no less than twenty-four years, after a group of young wizards had pushed Urg the Unclean in a village pond.
He would be the first to admit that wizards had done some hideous things to Goblins, but the creatures themselves weren't exactly saints either, and took about every opportunity to break peace… However, he needed them now. He needed their cooperation and willingness to work with him as more than a Neutral factor if he was going to overthrow the banking system of the Muggle world.
"Lord Voldemort…" Grobblestone finally spoke, and with a lazy movement, he turned his attention to the Goblin, waiting for what the creature –pardon, Being,- had to say. "I have to say that I am… surprised by your presence. One wouldn't think that the Dark Lord himself would grant us a visit."
"I don't see why not. You are far more worth my time than most others," he replied smoothly, smirking inwardly when he saw clear discomfort on the faces of the Goblins as they were forced to re-evaluate their thoughts of him. Outward flattery of their race had probably not been expected. "Moreover, I think that we can help each other…"
"Each other? So giving us the right to obtain wands is not something given freely?"
"Is anything in life free? Surely, bankers like yourself know that a deal is very rarely made out of the goodness of one's heart, especialy on part of the one who holds the power."
"And yet, you also give the other side power if you reveal there is something they have that you need."
"I wouldn't say need… But it would be… handy to have your cooperation."
"With what? We swore to never fight alongside wizards."
"And I shall not ask that of you. Instead, I ask you to fight against wizards… a certain group of wizards." Inwardly, he felt immense pleasure when he noticed he suddenly had their attention. This wasn't only about wands anymore… this was talk they liked. Payment and repayment… prizes and battle and killing. For years, decades, Goblins had lain low, but every Goblin baby had to have heard about their mighty, fighting ancestors who didn't take shit from wizards, and every single one of them grew up as nothing more than someone who kept a vault for the very ones their nature commanded they fight against. All that pent up anger would serve him very well now.
"Come again?" Grobblestone breathed, his black, beetle-like eyes glowing.
"There are armies out there… armies of wizards, ready to break down Britain… And not only us. They will seize your bank, and you can either stand by and let them, or you can stick their heads on poles." A disgusted noise sounded from his right, and he raised an eye at Granger, who was looking at the both of them with disgust. "Do you have anything to add?" he asked.
"That is barbaric." She hissed, her eyes large. "You… beast!"
In a flash, not only had the Goblins sprung up, but he had his fingers wrapped around her throat as well. "This is war," he said. "And I am your Lord, so you had better do as I command or be left out on the street, stripped off of everything you love," he spat.
"How can Harry-"
He struck fast and hit her across her cheek. "Leave Harry out of this. You have no idea. Now… I apologise for the… disturbance, Grakhys," he continued, seeing they were instantly placated by the use of the goblin word. It was used in the same manner that 'gentlemen' was used in English, but then with the literal meaning of 'bloody warrior,' which, in fact, really said something about their race.
"Apology accepted… Kahnna."
"We understand each other then?" he replied, letting go of Granger, not showing his shock over that they had just called him 'Lord' in their own language.
"Slightly. As we said before, we will not fight alongside wizards. We will not answer to calls for aid or battles, but we will not stand by idly either. If our bank, or Diagon Alley even, is threatened by them, we will fight, and you have our word that we will slaughter them. Furthermore, we will lend any cooperation you or your followers need within the walls of Gringotts. But in return…"
"In return, you will get the right to carry wands, and dispose of the enemies you catch in your way. No need to hand them over to us."
"You are talking about giving them no fair trial?" Granger interrupted, and he pinned her with a stare.
"Oh, I am talking about giving them a fair trial… a Goblin trial." He smiled sinisterly, a smile mimicked by the head of the bank.
"Does that conclude our deal?" the Goblin asked.
"Not quite… Once I rule Britain, both Muggle and magical, I want to avoid confusion with monetary systems. However, I need you cooperation with that too."
"My plan for now is to have a system of two banks. There is not enough gold and silver to make Galleons and Sickles the going currency for millions of people. Furthermore, there are many magical items that I do not want Muggles to be able to get their hands on, for the results could be disastrous."
"You want your people to use both Muggle money and Galleons, depending on the items they buy?"
"They are already doing that now… or well, Muggleborns are. Ms Granger?"
The witch gave him a frightened, reluctant look, but opened her mouth in the end. "I… I have two bank accounts… One at Gringotts for items I wish to buy at Diagon or Hogsmeade and the like, and another one at a Muggle bank, for when I want to buy anything in the Muggle world."
"If it works, what is the problem with wizards doing the same thing once our world connect?" Grobblestone asked, confused.
Hermione continued: "Muggle banks are corrupt… the government needs to constantly pump money into them just to keep them standing. Risky investments, bosses who keep most of the money in their own pockets… Unfairness is what rules the economy. It's sometimes near impossible to get loans, and with all the competition between banks, people have no clue whether they're putting their money in a reliable bank, o if they risk losing it."
"Just goes to show humans are flawed and untrustworthy… even to their own kind," Grobblestone grumbled. "Still, why is it our problem? You put all those Muggle banks into one, and Gringotts will keep managing Wizarding currency. I don't see what you want of me."
"You see… You're right. Humans can't be trusted. Humans don't trust other humans with money," Granger spoke, surprising Voldemort by having picked up on the flattery. "That is why… we need Goblins. Our species is too weak of mind to deal with such a thing. You do already have experience with Muggle money…"
"A business only here to keep customers," the Goblin growled. "Some cotton, ink and linen! Worthless cotton is what is being dealt in! We're basically giving our gold away for free!"
"Not quite… it isn't the material that gives money its worth, and while I realise that Muggles use a different system than you use, money is a limited item, just like any other. Its worth in material might not be much, but money is a good with a limited supply and there is a demand for it because people want it. That in itself creates its value, and that is heightened because everybody wants it, because it can be used in exchange for other goods and services."
"I am a banker, I know how money works, Ms Granger. I simply don't agree. If the gold and silver standard had still been there… maybe. But that is gone and can't come back because there is not enough gold and silver around. If you are suggesting that you want to split our bank up in a section that deals with muggle, and a section that deals with wizarding money… The answer is no. It goes against my very nature to deal in things of which the only value is in the mind. Gold has a fixed value… it is the standard value. Cotton money is a system based on belief, and business is stunted by it because of hyperinflation problems. People are unsure whether money will retain its value, so the value drops. Our bank is not interested. Besides, what would we gain?"
Voldemort, who had seen the atmosphere go from glum to gloomier, suddenly perked up at those words. If the Goblin really had been as uninterested as he had made it seem, then that last question woudn't even have been asked. He considered jumping in, but so far Granger was doing a good job on it, so he let her continue.
"Goblin artifacts. A law that equalises wizarding law with Goblin law. I know that our way of thinking about belongings is quite different. Wizards buy an object and consider it theirs, theirs to do with as they please, even giving it to other wizards after they die. New laws can change that… To give bought items back to the rightful owner, the maker, after the buyer's demise."
It was a risky move, and wizards were not going to be happy, but it was a briljant thing to dangle in front of their faces, he had to admit.
"With adaptaions," she continued, before the Goblin could say anything. "Only as long as the maker is still alive… Your community spirit is greater than that of humans, but if the maker no longer lives, then humans would see it just as much of a theft to have to hand it back to a Goblin who never had anything to do with the item, as goblins see it as a theft to have a Goblin artefact passed onto other wizards."
"I… understand," Grobblestone answered, reluctantly. "And I will… consider your second request, but it needs time, and many meetings with the rest of my family. Regarding your first offer, that is something I can decide on my own, and it is a yes. Let us create a contract."
"In blood, I presume?"
"In blood. Naturally."
"Good work, Granger," the Dark Lord said as they walked out of Gringotts, stared after by many black eyes as Voldemort tapped his wand against the roll of parchment to shrink it. Hermione stared up at him with an indefinable expression. She was regretting her decisions, but she could never betray him… there were simply no better options.
"Was it really necessary to solve this by offering them the chance to shed blood?"
"It's what they want… so yes. I don't care whether you think its monstrous or barbaric or humane. We're not dealing with humans here, Granger, and you should not treat them as such. Sentient goblins may be, and very sly and cunning, but not human, and they appreciate it least of all to be seen as human. Behind their financial genius are bloodthirsty beings, and war appeals to them even more than gold does. I would have been a fool to not offer them violence against Wizarding kind. And frankly, I absolutely don't care what happens to my enemies. They should have picked the better side, in my opinion."
"This is exactly what is keeping them away," she muttered, turning her head away from him. After that talk with the Goblins, she didn't know what to think anymore… She knew the Light's ideals were bad, but to hand their own kind over to the whims of Goblins? The death sentence was something she would never condone.
"Granger, I'm not going to excuse myself to you. I like violence and have no qualms about torture or feel a shred of remorse. Go elsewhere with your talk of monstrosity, for the monster doesn't care."
She wanted to say more, but knew that it was pointless. It was as if she was talking to a brick wall. One stained with blood, no less. She just shook her head and continued walking, when she suddenly heard commotion. Her head shot up, but she didn't have time to dodge the spell that was whizzing her way. She tried, raising her hand but she didn't have time, and she closed her eyes when she felt the shock of it hitting.
She was blinded and deafened by the impact, and felt a sharp crack in her shoulder, but then she snapped her eyes open again, confused as to why there was no other pain, and it was only then that she saw the black mist that encased her like a shield. "What the…" she said, and oddly enough she could hear her own voice clearly. It seemed as if the mist was what was holding all other sounds out. She looked behind her, confused when seeing Voldemort there, his wand pointed at her. It didn't take long for her to figure out what happened, and as the mist dissolved, she quickly drew her own wand fully while taking a few steps back. It wasn't as if she couldn't hold her own, but it was madness to jump into attack mode if the most powerful dark wizard to ever have lived was standing a few feet away.
It didn't last long… someone screamed and the crowd pulled back, leaving only a single man –or boy, rather, she saw now- in clear view. To her shock, she recognised him. He had been three years above her at Hogwarts, and had sometimes even helped her with finding books in the library. She saw him trying to scramble up to his knees when the curse he'd been under was lifted, and she took a step back when his eyes met hers, hatred in them.
"Traitor!" he yelled, before he screamed again, longer this time. She should have stopped Voldemort, but even if he would listen to her, she was far too shaken and shocked to do anything. She only moved when a cold hand grabbed her and the feeling of apparition overtook her.
She never understood people who complained about apparition… If you just stayed focused, even when not being the one to do the magic, it was as easy as breathing, and when she landed she immediately stood firm on the earth. Or tiles, in this case.
"You shielded me," she stated, still confused, as she quickly walked after Voldemort, who had spared no time waiting around, instead immediately walking in the direction of where she thought the dining room was located.
"Should I not have?" can the airy reply.
"Not that I am not grateful… but why? After I disrespected you at Gringotts…" she trailed off, wondering why she was making her own case worse.
"Which you will be punished for," he replied harshly, looking over his shoulder, red eyes boring into hers, before they instantly softened. "But not now… I have more pressing matters at hand. Take a rain-check on it." He chuckled quietly at the ill humour, and gestured for her to sit down at the heavy wooden table. She wished Harry would be in the same room, but she didn't even know if he were home. And with the sheer size of the mansion, he probably wouldn't even hear her scream if he were in a far-off room.
"To answer your question, Ms Granger, I ask you one in return. Did you think that being my follower was a one-way street?"
She frowned. "I… I'm not sure what you mean by that, My Lord."
"Even slaves get something in return from their masters, be it food, shelter, or protection. In exchange for your service to me, I vowed to protect all my followers to the best of my abilities against anyone but myself, and even then, I only hurt those who should be punished. While you do not bear my Mark yet, I own you, Ms Granger, and I can hardly let my property be damaged."
She wished to protest, to deny that she belonged to anyone but herself, but the sad truth was that she was unable to do so. From the day she swore to follow him and stand by Harry… she had sold herself for an unknown price. It did make sense, in a twisted way, that he should protect her from anyone else… though that he didn't include himself gave her the chills.
"Why did he attack me? Why me? I had expected that, with both of us walking there, the prime target shouldn't be the mudblood," she scoffed.
"There are still many who do not believe the intentions of my cause, many who think that the only thing that will follow my rule will be the enslavement of Muggles. Did you know that boy?"
"Yeah… We studied together at Hogwarts… he's a Muggleborn as well… You don't think that he thinks I'd sell out Muggles to you in exchange for my own hide?"
"Most likely, that is exactly what he thinks. But don't dwell on it, Granger. There are more important things to discuss. First of all… Dumbledore. He may be dead, but many still think him holy. It's not a top priority anymore to change that but it would be… nice. So, as you finally did get a treaty with the Goblins, though not entirely by yourself, I must add, I shall give you the memories so your little bug can start the work she wanted to."
"We're both grateful for the opportunity."
"It's your job. Now, you'd better hurry back to Hogwarts before anyone starts missing you. You've been here for quite a while."
Hermione smiled sadly. "There isn't really anyone there who'd miss me now Harry and Ron are gone… How are they anyways?" she asked before she could stop herself.
"I am not your personal informant, I am your boss," he answered coldly. "They are both alive and healthy, and that's all you'll get. DO not mistake our relationship as anything but lord and follower, no matter that Harry considers you a friend." She shrank back, not having expected that outburst. She didn't quite know what to think of him now, to be honest. She didn't like his personality. She did admire him as a figure of authority, but she still had her doubts about if he was good for her friend. Surely, usually lovers tried to at least be friendly to each other's friends…
"Can I see Harry though?" she asked, nearly begging. She bravely stared back as a blood-red gaze rested on her.
"Tomorrow," he finally, curtly replied. "He isn't here today." She nodded and stood.
"I shall go back then, My Lord," she spoke, and bowed. "I shall be here tomorrow after dinner."
"I shall inform Harry of it. And don't think I shall forget your punishment."
Shivering slightly, her stomach clenching at the thought of being held under the torture curse, she activated her portkey, fleeing to Hogwarts.
The room slowly filled, the wooden benches soon invisible under the mass of robes. Sirius nervously tapped his fingers on his knees. The past weeks he had done his hardest to visit all Wizarding communities and gain their favour, been to the parties he hated and established contacts, and gotten to know all figures of importance in the Ministry and the rest of the Wizarding would. He hated this, he hated politics, and he wondered how crazy he was for willingly trying to become Minister of Magic. The only small relief was that the position of Minister of Magic would become a lot smaller once Voldemort would have taken over the full government.
He glanced to the empty spot of wall near the door where he knew Harry was hiding under his invisibility cloak. He wished that his godson stood closer so they could talk but it was impossible with all the people around them. Also, he and the other two candidates were sitting next to each other, Thicknesse apathetic –he knew he was only there as a ploy anyways- and Scrimgeour every bit like the old lion he was, smiling grimly at the press.
Unlike the first speech, this was not a public affair, which he thought quite odd, as if was the public who would be voting tonight, sending in votes anonymously for every of age family member by use of the bowls and paper slips they had received a day prior. He was glad that he knew the ones who were in charge of casting protection spells on those, and knew them to be honest and able people, so a disaster like during the first elections this method had been used would be prevented. Actually, Sirius had participated happily in the meddling of the elections that time so he would probably get what he deserved if people did the same now, but there was too much at stake this time for that.
He smiled faintly when remembering that time, when half the population had been dissatisfied with all the candidates, and tricked the slips of paper into accepting all names instead of just the candidate names. And with the conspiracy that absolutely hadn't started with James Potter, more than forty percent of votes went to "Fluffy."
Scrimgeour gave him an odd look when he snorted loudly at the thought, and burst out in soft snickers when thinking of Hagrid telling him about how he had named a Cerberus after that prank to honour it. It had been so fitting… a three-headed dog to represent politics… Most of the politicians he knew were careful to have at least three masks after all. His laughter died down when he realised that he himself had also started creating a mask. He tried his best to be honest, but there were some things that just wouldn't go over well, like his involvement with Voldemort, and even in the way he acted around other people of importance, he noticed that he was being less himself and more the perfect eldest son his mother would have been proud of… The one he had never wanted to be.
He got pulled out of his thoughts as Percy Weasley entered, who, as personal assistant of the last minister of magic, had the task to oversee the votes. It wasn't unusual for the last assistant to keep his position under a new minister, but while Scrimgeour might have no problems with keeping Percy, Sirius wasn't about to do the same. He was a traitor to his family, and while people might argue that his case was the same as Sirius', Sirius' mother had practically thrown him out and broke all contact, not went begging to his door step only to get a door slammed in his face.
And moreover, he'd heard that Pervy was absolutely anti-Harry… which automatically made him not very popular in Sirius' eyes. Even with the undeniable evidence that Harry had not lied about Voldemort's return, Percy had not even seen it fit to apologise. His jaw twitched as he saw the young man pompously climb the steps of the small dais that had been erected in the middle of the hall and point his wand dramatically to his throat.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," it echoed through the room. "Welcome to the 29th elections of the Minister for Magic. Voting will start in a few minutes, but first I want to wish the candidates the best of luck. All of them have done their best to convince public and Ministry alike of their good intentions and plans for the future. The voting process, as most of you know, is divided in three parts: the votes of the House of nobles, the Wizengamot, and the public. The percentages will be added up to decide the winner and, in case of a rare draw like during the 16th elections between Grogan Stump and Annie Cettleburn, the public will select a member of the Wizengamot to represent them, who will then reveal his or her vote. As is custom, the candidates are not to speak until after the voting, so they will not change any opinions voters will have had when entering this room. Let us begin!"
Sirius sank back into his chair, biting his lip and going over how much chance he had to win. He didn't expect much of the house of Nobles… One could only vote once, so the members of the Dark who would vote for him like Malfoy and Greengrass, were divided over both of them, while some of his sworn enemies, mainly families who couldn't understand why he had ever betrayed the Blacks, were firmly against him. And then there were the Light noble families, who still followed Dumbledore even after his death and wished to keep the Statute of Secrecy intact. He hoped that he had more favour in the Wizengamot but he wasn't certain… during his campaign he had mainly thrown all resources he had on visiting the public and trying to sway them. Thankfully he had been met with many positive signs, from those who knew where he stood and followed the Dark Lord, to people who admired him for his days as an Auror, to people who were mad at the previous Ministry for letting atrocities happen like throwing 'criminals' in Azkaban without a trial.
The room was eerily silent as everyone else scratched a name on their slip of paper and threw it in the bowls they had received: gold for the nobles, silver for the Wizengamot and brass for the public. Not many who were currently present had brass bowls… only those who were here to fulfill another role but who were not a part of the two elective organs, like the Aurors guarding the room and Percy, had public voting bowls. Sirius wondered how Voldemort expected his Death Eaters who were officially either dead or fugitive, to gain possession of a bowl, but then he remembered that he had seen Harry receive one, and that many inside of the Ministry were on their side and most likely knew exactly how many extras had to be made.
Quiet rushes of fire were to be heard all over now as the bowls accepted the names, a magic on them that was similar to the Goblet of fire, but all linked to one small cup that was in front of Percy, who would calculate everything. He was very glad for knowing what protection spells had been cast over the young man to ensure he didn't cheat, because he was fairly certain that the name Percy wrote on his own slip of paper was not Sirius'. If anything, he might be one of the clueless ones who actually threw in a vote for Thicknesse.
Thicknesse… another reason why he was worried about his own votes in the Wizengamot. Some of the people of the dark would vote for him to keep up the façade, which meant that it would cost Sirius several votes… But everything would be a lot more suspicious if the man didn't get anything, which would immediately reveal Sirius as having been put forward by the dark as well. Well… he could only hope for the best…
"All votes have been received!" Percy's voice finally boomed through the hall after a full hour of not being able to do nothing but worrying. Truly, all votes in that room had been received within five to ten minutes, but the hour was custom in case someone of the public forgot about it or didn't make it to his or her bowl in time. "All votes for the House of nobles shall now be counted and calculated."
Merlin, how he hated waiting… He groaned softly and did his best to not nod off, although that would have been his preferred action. Sirius glanced over to the spot of wall he knew Harry to be, to see if his godson would give him a sign of sorts to show that he was there, but saw nothing at all, not even a ripple in the air. Was Harry really here? He hadn't seen him for days… But surely Harry had not forgotten his promise to be present?
He desperately wished to speak, no matter to whom… It was a habit he had taken up in Azkaban, his own voice filling the silence that was otherwise only broken by screams or rattling breath, and it worked on his nerves to be in such a silent room. He expected a cold hand around his throat every second…
He jumped as Percy's voice broke it all of a sudden, and he couldn't help but be slightly impressed at how fast the man had done it. One could say many negative things about Percy Weasley, but not that he wasn't good at his job.
"Now then, the moment we have all been waiting for!" he said loudly, and several photographers stepped forwards to get a good shot. "Firstly, the votes of the House of Nobles. Leading, with 52 percent… Rufus Scrimgeour!" Sirius gritted his teeth. It had been expected, but still… "Second, with 43 percent, Sirius Black!" He sighed in relief. Only nine under Scrimgeour… it could still be saved… "And third, with 5 percent, Pius Thicknesse." Well, even if Thicknesse got a hundred of the public, he wouldn't be running for minister…
"Next, the Wizengamot. Leading with 46 percent… Rufus Scrimgeour!" Sirius closed his eyes. Not good, absolutely not good. Two out of three Scrimgeour had taken lead already… "Second, with 41 percent, Sirius Black, and third with thirteen percent, Pius Thicknesse." Well, that could have gone worse… If Voldemort wouldn't have commanded several to vote for Thicknesse, he would even have won that, which was quite a surprise.
"Lastly, the public votes… "Leading with an overwhelming amount of 61 percent, Sirius Black!" His eyes widened and he glanced at Scrimgeour, who had, until that moment, looked victorious, certain of his victory already. "Second with 37 percent, Rufus Scrimgeour, and lastly Pius Thicknesse with… 2 percent." Sirius snorted at the last figure. Clearly Voldemort had not bothered instructing his followers to vote for Thicknesse if they weren't in Wizengamot or the house of nobles.
Suddenly though, it dawned on him, and he quickly counted the voted in his head… Scrimgeour seemed to have realised it as well, for he gave a sour smile and offered Sirius a worn hand. "I suppose I shall return to the Auror office then… Minister," he said, right before Percy announced:
"That concludes the 28th elections, won by Sirius Black with, out of 300, 145 percent, followed by Rufus Scrimgeour with 135 and Pius Thicknesse with 20!"
"He would be a good announcer at Quidditch games," Sirius remarked, and Scrimgeour couldn't help but stifle a quick grin at the comment, before the smiles were wiped off of everyone's faces as the room turned dark all of a sudden. The sound of breaking glass was to be heard and he looked up, feeling numb when, as if everything happened in slow-motion, he saw the ceiling break before the wave of magic hit them all, and the screeching sound of the alarm deafened his ears.
Disorientated, he jumped up from his seat and, instead of helping the others up, drew forth his wand to erect a shield as large as he could to protect others from the glass. "Ready the Aurors! We're under attack!" he screamed into Scrimgeour's ear, hoping he hadn't gone as deaf as Sirius himself. The man nodded and hurried away. He turned to see a mass of panicking people trying to flee through the doors, and several bodies lay bloodied on the steps, cut by the shard of glass that had rained down on them. In a flash, he saw Harry running, half of him still invisible under the cloak, which made for very strange view, but his wand was out and he seemed to be yelling at several members of the Wizengamot, including Malfoy.
Sirius tried to push through the wriggling mass, but failed to reach the other, so he was glad when their eyes met and Harry came to him instead, having the advantage because he came from the higher steps. The alarm had ceased and he slowly started hearing again, his ears clear enough by the time Harry reached him to communicate. "What happened?" he asked, agitated.
"War, war is happening. The other countries know of your goals and aren't happy with that you've won… they most likely were already hiding and waiting until the new Minister would become known… They're everywhere. Thankfully we came prepared."
"Prepared? You expected this?"
"It was a possibility, so Marvolo wanted to take no risks. You have to get out of here Sirius, you'll be their main target and as Scrimgeour came second, he will take office in the case of your untimely demise."
"I have a duty to my people now, Harry."
"No. You didn't follow my advice about leaving when you fought the Order, and I am not in the position to follow your advice now. I became Minister to change things, and I swore to be a minister who would not hide behind others and cower in my office. I've been an Auror, I've been an Order member… I am a soldier above all. If I flee now, I will lose all credibility and respect I gained."
They stared at each other for a while before Harry sighed. "Fine then. The main fights are currently going on in the Atrium, from which they broke in. Marvolo and most of the Death Eaters are there, trying to hold them off." Sirius nodded, and together they started to make their way towards the doors, which were finally not blocked anymore by other people.
"Everyone will know that I side with him then," he frowned as they ran through the corridors, taking shortcuts less known to the public that he only knew from the time he'd been an Auror.
"It doesn't matter anymore now you've won the elections, and you are still your own man, Sirius. You made that very clear. You're not a puppet like Thicknesse would have been. The people will realise that soon enough as well. Now, where are the Aurors?"
"I sent Scrimgeour away to round them up and fend off the attackers. I do hope they will notice that the Death Eaters are working with and not against them, or we'll have a chaos beyond anything ever seen before…"
"It's only the start… this fight will go through the bowels of London. Charlie was waiting with his dragons in the lower levels of Gringotts in case something happened... Once they break through to the Ministry the real fight will begin…"
"Gringotts? And the Goblins let him? Since when do we have Gringotts?"
"We managed to get them to sign a treaty just in time... Last week actually. They don't have to fight themselves but they will aid us in whatever other ways we need… Well, except financially, they're not about to give away their gold." They rounded a corner, and Harry skidded to a halt, barely dodging a stray blast that ate away a chunk of wall, which blackened and sizzled after. 'Chaos' was indeed a good way to describe the state of the Atrium, as well as, as far as he could see, many corridors.
"As far as I know though," Sirius yelled in Harry's ear, "Gringotts and the Ministry don't connect!"
"Wrong! They connect as of yesterday! Some warped magic and barriers or something… I didn't really understand the full explanation, but it made sense to Hermione so I assume it's okay. Duck!"
Sirius instantly let himself drop to the floor, a jet of fire going over his head. He was pretty sure that it had been aimed to high to hit him anyways, but it was better to not take any risks. He barrel-rolled to a corner and took a defensive stance, scanning to room. To his relief, the Aurors seemed to have picked up that the Death Eaters were attacking the same people who were attacking them, so there was no fighting amongst them… for now at least.
"When did you see Hermione?" Sirius yelled back, and harry gave him an incredulous look.
"She's portkeyed back and forth from Hogwarts a few times past days. Not that that matters now that we're in the middle of an attack! Keep the chatting to later please?"
"I can't help that anyone ever tells me anything!" He answered, but harry wasn't listening anymore, effectively shooting a set of purple blasts at a woman who had been about to slit the throat of a Death Eater from behind, the navy blue robes of the French ministry becoming soaked with red.
He looked at Harry, knowing his godson was probably relieved to fight like this again. After the previous battle he had expressed his preference to fights in places with corridors and corners to an open field where the attacker could come from all sides. Sirius couldn't blame him, after Harry had nearly died during the battle in France. Another plus was that Harry should be slightly familiar with this part of the Ministry by now; Voldemort had made him explore the building a couple of times.
"Sirius!" the teen said, scooting over to him and thrusting a bundle of fabric in his hands. "I just got an idea. You're a prime target, and I know you will stay regardless, so cover yourself with my cloak!"
"But the people…"
"The people are far too busy fighting to notice you are with them or not for now… You can always reveal yourself at the end, when there aren't so many enemies left anymore, or you can use the time to think of a good attack plan or something." Before he could protest, the cloak had been thrown over his head.
"Harry, what about you?"
"As much as I hate it… I have to go. I promised to not participate in large battles anymore after what happened last time. I can't be a weakness to Marvolo to be used against him… I will stay here in the Ministry, but I won't throw myself in the heat of the battle anymore. I think I'm going to hunt through the corridors to see if anyone is trying to escape."
"He forbade you from it?"
"More or less… It was my choice in the end though, don't worry. Now, I'm going. It's strange to talk to you when you're invisible anyways."
"Don't worry. I'll only get one-on-one duels at most and I'm trained at that. Besides, I'm wearing special protection. Worry about yourself!" And with that, Harry was gone, having ran off to deeper parts of the Ministry. Sirius braced himself, though he was glad that he had James' cloak. It felt much safer, although he knew that he'd have to be careful for stray spells. Ducking, because it was a lot smaller than he remembered it to be, he ran to a strategic point, a large statue, and clambered on top of it. It was something that would have been suicide if he'd been visible, but now it was the perfect place. He could oversee the whole Atrium, plus the corridor with fireplaces.
He really had expected his first day as Minister to go different. Boring tea parties, endless congratulations, holding off the press… Not this, immediate violence and battle. It was poles apart from his expectations, and he loved every second of it.
He had no idea how much time passed… the people seemed to be endless, and magic was everywhere, his sense of time slipping away as he fired spell after spell. Voldemort was fighting in the middle of it all, his magic lashing out viciously, and Sirius was very glad they were somewhat on the same side. He had fought against the man in battles before and narrowly escaped, but that had been decades ago, and it was clear that Voldemort had grown in both strength and knowledge. Most people tried to steer clear of his reach, but not everyone succeeded in doing so.
Suddenly, he noticed something strange. The Dark Lord seemed to be working in a slow circle around the atrium, and the splashes of blood on the marble floor didn't seem like random anymore, patterns smeared out with it. He did not recognise many of the symbols, except for a few runes, but it looked slightly too much like a summoning ritual for Sirius to dare jump off the statue and set foot within the circle. Fascinated, he watched as the full circle was made, and Voldemort suddenly lifted his wand to the statues in the middle of the fountain, shouting an incantation. The gold twisted and grew, and the fighting halted for a moment, everyone watching in awe, which soon tuned into panic as it formed a single being: A dragon.
Sirius finally understood where exactly Gringotts connected with the Ministry now… he had linked the bank with the statue of the goblin, which had also been made with goblin gold. It made sense. The dragon roared and changed colour, before another one grew behind it, and the creatures flooded the Atrium. After last battle, the enemy knew they had dragons on their side, but they had clearly not expected them to be able to reach to here, for as soon as they appeared, the enemy fled in panic. The dragons tried to chase after them, and burnt a few people, but the blue flashes of Portkeys safely transported a lot of them away. Sirius threw the cloak off and ran with his people, getting surprised looks from around him.
Finally, the corridors were silent, and the survivors either sank down or started inspecting the bodies. It had been over as sudden as it had begun, leaving some people to wander with their wands still out, unable to believe it was over.
"Minister," a silky voice sounded, and he turned around to face Voldemort, aware of all eyes that were on him.
"Lord Voldemort," he spoke, refusing to grant him the title of 'My Lord.'
"Congratulations on winning the elections. I hope on… fruitful business with you.
Sirius gave a jerky nod. "My thanks in your aid this battle. I am certain that we will be able to work together where we have common goals." Red eyes narrowed at the unspoken words.
"You should not play such dangerous games with those above you, Minister."
"I'll be sure I won't then, when I find someone above me," he replied coolly. "Now, I shall have to excuse myself and see how my people are doing." As soon as he had said that though, a majestic owl flew above their heads, dropping a red envelope in between their feet. Sirius picked it up and opened it, knowing that it would be over much sooner like that.
This fight is not over. The people of Britain have elected one with goals that go directly against everything we stand for, and which will influence all other countries. The Declaration of War against the Dark forces in Britain has hereby been extended to the whole nation. Prepare yourself.
Sirius did not recognise the voice that boomed through the Ministry with a thick French accent, but he sighed at the dramatics. As if they hadn't known already…
"I shall move all of my forces to London," Voldemort told him. "There is no other place they know of that will be advantageous for them to strike. The Wizarding communities scattered throughout the countries are too small to be a target, and my own home is an unknown location to them. Hogwarts might be a target, but is still in the hands of people who are actually against me, so I doubt they will strike there."
"Good. I shall have the Aurors ready to act as well. My first act as Minister though, is to re-establish the safety regulations of 1972. Scrimgeour! There you are," he spoke as the man came running towards him, faltering as he looked at the Dark Lord in fear. "1972, make sure the news is spread through the Wizarding world. Voldemort, can you get Lovegood to print that too?"
"Certainly, though it will be easier if the ban on the magazine is lifted."
"Then it shall be by this evening."
"The Quibbler was controlled by the Dark after all?" an Auror which had come with Scrimgeour said.
"Not necessarily controlled… but Lovegood favours the Dark, yes. A request from me will not be something he'll decide to ignore." Voldemort answered, the Auror looking as if he wished he hadn't spoken at all.
"Furthermore," Sirius continued, "I regret saying it, but it is necessary… The decree issued after the defeat of the Giants in the first Wizarding war about Unforgivable regulations shall also be brought into action as well… until this war has been fought. However, people wishing to fall under the decree will have to personally indicate that, and have it approved. Aurors are granted instant approval, the rest will have it looked over case by case. Weasley!"
"Yes, Minister?" Percy, who had just entered the corridor, said, half-running to his side. Sirius inwardly grumbled about having to keep Percy as assistant for now after all, but there wasn't enough time to look at other options. "Come with me to the office… there's work to do. Lots of work. Scrimgeour, have your Aurors try to control this mess and send scouts throughout London to see if they're really all gone, report to me after. I'll be in The minister's… in my office. Weasley, the key?"
"Yes Minster," the man hurried to say, handing him the key. Sirius wished that he wouldn't act so obediently, but he knew that Percy would bend over backwards if it would keep him his job, and as Minister, Sirius was not allowed to ask him if he'd voted for him or not.
"Lord Voldemort, it seems we shall part ways here. Say hi to Harry from me." And with that, he turned around. This job was already stressing him out… but he had to admit that was better than sitting around doing nothing, and the biggest plus of it was that, at least in public, he could get away with subtly bossing the Dark Lord around. Ah, power… he understood how it could corrupt. Who wouldn't want to get a one-over on Voldemort? Well, maybe he was the only one suicidal enough to try…
"And someone make me coffee!" he yelled over his shoulder.
Well... Sirius is Minister now... Let's hope he'll be a good one :P
next chap... finally some Hermione and Rita interaction again, Sirius visiting the Muggle Prime Minister, and we are slowly getting to the end of Part II..
Read and Review!