Chapter 9 – The Eleventh Hour

AN

The third task already? My, this story has flown by.

One thing in canon I never really understood was why Dumbledore was so confrontational with Fudge at the end of GoF. The Minister clearly wasn't going to acknowledge Voldemort's return, so why force the issue? Wouldn't it have been better to keep his mouth shut and prepare in secret? It's not like Dumbledore achieved much by antagonizing Fudge, is it? He only succeeded in making the Ministry openly hostile to him and getting the press to call him a nut-job. Nice work, Dumbles! Fortunately, our little Slytherdore Ginny is smarter than that…

Massive thanks to Arnel for correcting my (many) errors and pointing out my dumb canon mistakes. Oh, the shame!


Ginny stood nervously near the entrance to the maze. The crowds had gathered and you could taste the excitement in the air. For her part, Ginny just wanted the whole thing to be over and done with. Harry looked like he would agree with that sentiment. He stood next to her, eyeing the spectators with apprehension.

The third task had arrived too soon. They had spent a lovely day exploring the castle with Bill and her mum, and it had lured them all into a false sense of security. Indeed, when the twins had joined the group for lunch the meal had turned into a family reunion, and Ginny had had a wonderful time. She was particularly pleased with how well Harry and Bill seemed to get on and had practically glowed with happiness watching her two favourite boys in the world chatting together amicably.

But before she knew it, the day had passed and the champions were being called to the Quidditch stadium in preparation for the third task. The sense of unease she had been feeling for weeks returned in full force as they made their way down to the pitch. Bill and Mrs Weasley had both wished Harry luck before heading to the stands, while Ginny lingered by Harry's side.

"Have you got your mirror?" she asked him nervously.

"For the third time, yes!" Harry insisted. "As soon as I enter the maze I'll call you so you can hear what's going on."

"Good, don't forget or I'll bloody follow you into the maze to remind you," she joked.

"Don't worry, I've come to rely on you advise," he assured her.

"See, I knew you were quite intelligent really," she said with a grin. "But promise me, Harry, that you won't take any risks. But don't hold back, either. I know you don't feel like you should be part of this competition, but you're in the lead and you deserve to be. Besides, the longer this thing goes on, the more chance someone has to try something. Get in there, find the trophy and get out, fast!"

"Yes, miss," Harry said with a mock salute.

"Don't take the piss out of me!" Ginny snapped. "I'm scared enough as it is. If anything should happen to you, I…" Words failed her and her eyes began to moisten.

"Hey, nothing's going to happen," Harry insisted. "Security around the place is rock tight and after all the training I've had, I think I'm pretty capable of looking after myself. It's going to be alright. Besides, I can't let anything happen to me until we've had that end of term talk we discussed."

Ginny forced a smile onto her face. "Yeah, you try and wiggle out of that and I'll kill you myself," she grinned. "But please don't get complacent. And don't let your desire to rescue everybody take over; look after yourself and no one else, got that?"

"Yes," Harry agreed reluctantly.

"Can the champions please make their way to the start line," Ludo Bagman's voice called out.

Ginny gasped and threw her arms around Harry, hugging him tightly. He returned the gesture and held her to him. Ginny was sure the many wolf-whistles she heard were directed at them, but she didn't care.

"Please be safe, Harry," she whispered to him.

"I'll try," he said, before pulling away and heading towards the starting point.

Despite the tears in her eyes, Ginny remembered the other precaution she had decided to take. Surreptitiously pulling her wand from her robes, she cast a Tracking Charm at Harry's back. She could now place Harry's exact location to just a few feet, allowing her to track his movements accurately.

Seeing Harry line up with the other champions, Ginny turned and hurried away. If she was going to follow his progress via the mirrors, she needed to be somewhere quiet and secluded. She ran past the spectator's stand and back towards the castle. As soon as she reached the edge of the lake, she turned right and found a nice, out-of-the-way spot to settle down. She pulled out her mirror and waited for Harry to activate it.

She didn't have long to wait before she felt the mirror vibrate. She activated it from her end and she was greeted by the sight of Harry's face, bobbing up and down as he ran.

"We're off," he commented. "I've got a minute's head start over the others."

"Well, don't waste it," Ginny scolded him. "Put the mirror in your top pocket and get a move on."

She thought she heard him laugh as her view titled crazily and eventually began to settle down. Harry had slid the mirror into the breast pocket of his robes, which was only deep enough to accommodate about half the mirror's length. Ginny could, therefore, partially see what was ahead of Harry as well as hear him perfectly. The only things she could hear at present, however, was his breathing as he ran.

"I would have thought I would have run into something by now," Harry commented after about five minutes.

"Me, too," Ginny agreed, "and that makes me nervous. Keep your eyes and ears open."

"Wait!" Harry exclaimed. "What's that? It's… I don't believe it! A Dementor?"

"They wouldn't use a real Dementor in the Tournament," Ginny disagreed. "A Boggart! It must be a Boggart."

Harry didn't reply but she heard him call out 'Riddikulus!' before pressing on. One problem dealt with, Ginny thought happily. A second later another problem presented itself.

"Ginny," Harry called. "The way ahead if filled with a kind of golden mist. I've no idea what it does."

"Me, neither," she admitted. "It can't be anything too dangerous. Try sticking your foot into it carefully."

A second later the view from the mirror twisted unexpectedly and she heard Harry cry out.

"Harry!" she called in a panic. "What's happened?"

"I'm bloody upside down!" he yelled. "Buggering-shit! The mirror's fallen out of my pocket!"

Sure enough, Ginny's view spiralled for a second before everything went dark. She assumed the mirror must be lying face down on the ground. Frantically, she called out to Harry, but she couldn't hear anything.

Nearly a minute later, the mirror flared with light and she was suddenly looking at a grinning Harry's face.

"I'm not sure what the mist was," he admitted. "It just flipped me upside-down. I was able just to walk out of it, though. I had to Summon the mirror to me."

"Great, but don't dilly-dally," she urged him. "Get moving!"

Harry slipped the mirror back into his pocket without comment. Judging by the way her view was bouncing up and down, Ginny guessed that Harry had taken her advice and was running forward as fast as he could. A second later, the movement came to an abrupt halt and Ginny caught a glimpse of something large, pink and revolting.

"A Blast-Ended Skrewt!" Harry cursed. "I'm going to bloody kill Hagrid next time I see him."

"Remember the tactics for tackling one of them," Ginny urged. "Go for the underbelly!"

A few seconds Ginny heard a quick Levitation Charm being cast before it was rapidly followed by a Blasting Curse. She then heard what she suspected might have been the sound of someone throwing up.

"Oh, bugger me!" she heard Harry wail. "Trust me, Ginny. You do not ever want to see the insides of one of those things. And I thought it was ugly before!"

"Keep moving!" Ginny yelled.

Harry obeyed her command and started running again. So far they had seen no sign of the other contestants and Ginny assumed Harry's head start must have been sufficient for him to leave the others trailing in his dust. The Point Me spell Harry was using was also proving effective and Ginny hoped he must nearly be at the centre of the maze. Unfortunately, another obstacle lay in Harry's way.

"It's a sphinx," Harry declared, sounding a little awed.

"Riddles!" Ginny declared. "Sphinxes are known for asking riddles. I bet that's what you have to do."

Ginny was proved correct when she heard the sphinx inform Harry that she would ask him three riddles. Answer them all and he would be able to pass, get one wrong and she would attack, or remain silent and he could walk away. Harry told the sphinx to ask her first question.

"What always runs but never walks, often murmurs, never talks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but never eats?" the sphinx asked.

"Easy!" Harry piped up. "A river."

"Very good," the sphinx congratulated him. "Try this one: the person who makes it, sells it. The person who buys it never uses it and the person who uses it doesn't know they are. What is it?"

"Umm, any idea, Ginny?" Harry muttered.

"Let me think, I'm normally quite good at these," Ginny pondered. "Why would the person using something not know they were doing so? Unless they had something wrong with them, maybe? Or… or they were dead! Harry, the answer is a coffin!"

Harry relayed the answer and received confirmation that it was correct. The sphinx then asked her final riddle.

"If you break me, I do not stop working. If you touch me, I may be snared. If you lose me, nothing will matter. What am I?"

Ginny knew the answer instantly. "Your heart."

"Quite correct," the sphinx confirmed after Harry repeated the answer. "You may pass unhindered."

"Thank you," she heard Harry respond and could only smile at his perfect manners.

A few seconds later she heard Harry's triumphant cry. "I can see the trophy, Ginny! A few more steps and I'll have it."

"Great!" she replied, relief washing over her. "Just grab the bloody thing and get out of there."

"Okay, I've got…" Harry started to say before his voice was cut off sharply. The image in the mirror became a blurry mess and Ginny felt the Tracking Charm on Harry take a sudden lurch.

Ginny gasped in horror. A Portkey! The trap that she had feared all along had just been sprung and Harry had fallen right into it. Hell, she'd urged him to grab the bloody cup! Within seconds, Ginny was on her feet and running as fast as she could towards Hogwarts' Main Gates. Fortunately, her spot by the lake meant she wasn't too far away, but even so she cursed every lost second.

She was panting heavily by the time she reached the mercifully open gates. Without pausing, she sprinted passed them before coming to an abrupt halt. Her mirror was showing nothing, but she was sure she could hear faint voices through it. She suspected it had been broken when the Portkey had deposited Harry wherever he was. She checked the Tracking Charm and was dismayed to realise Harry had been moved hundreds of miles away. Taking a deep breath, Ginny turned slightly on the spot and Apparated to the location the Tracking Charm indicated Harry was.

Ginny had never tried to Apparate before in her life, but Tom had been extremely proficient. Armed with his knowledge and memories, it never occurred to Ginny that she would be unable to do it. Fortunately, her confidence proved well founded and she arrived with a soft pop.

At first, she could see very little. She had arrived in what appeared to be a large, dark field filled with rocks. On closer inspection, she realised that the rocks were actually gravestones and she was in a cemetery. Looking around, her eyes were drawn to what appeared to be a camp fire about twenty yards to her left. Ginny pulled out her wand and made her way cautiously towards the light. Once she was close, she ducked down behind a conveniently sited gravestone and peered round.

"B-blood of the enemy… forcibly taken… you will… resurrect your foe," a voice called out.

Ginny gasped. In front of her, she could see a small, dirty-looking man who appeared to be clutching his right arm to himself in pain. The man staggered towards a large, ornate headstone with a statue of an angel above it. Ginny caught a flash of something metallic in the firelight and to her horror she realised that the small man was holding a knife in his left hand. From her position she couldn't really see what he was doing, so she decided to cast a Disillusionment Spell on herself so she could move out from behind cover.

Suitably hidden from sight, she stepped out from behind the gravestone she'd been hiding behind and gasped in horror. In the faint light she could just make out a figure tied to the headstone: Harry! Before she could react, the small man swung the knife and cut Harry on his arm. She saw Harry's body stiffen, but strangely she didn't hear a peep out of him. He'd probably either been Silenced or gagged, she assumed. The small man fumbled with something which he held to Harry's arm, before he turned and staggered back to the fire.

Hurrying forward, Ginny wracked her brains trying to figure out what was happening. It was only when she saw the small man upend a phial or small bottle into a cauldron which sat upon the fire did things start to make sense. A Resurrection Ritual! Buried in Tom's memories was extensive research he had done on the subject, part of his quest to achieve his ultimate goal: immortality. Although Ginny was unfamiliar with this particular ritual, its purpose seemed clear enough. The fact that Harry's blood had been used was ominous; the ritual had to be stopped immediately!

"Stupefy!" Ginny cried, aiming her wand at the small man who crumpled in a heap instantly.

"Confrigo!" she cried, this time aiming at the cauldron. The Blasting Curse hit the metal pot squarely and shattered it to pieces. Boiling potion gushed everywhere and generated great clouds of steam as it made contact with the fire, which was partially doused.

In the remaining light, Ginny could just make out something crawling from the shattered cauldron. The thing was small, around the size of a baby, and was covered in ragged, red flesh. The thing pulled itself forward a few feet before it twitched and emitted a dreadful, high-pitched screech. With a final shudder, the deformed creature was still.

Giving the cauldron a wide berth, Ginny ran to the headstone. Harry was still bound tightly to the stone and his right sleeve had been ripped away, exposing a cut which was dripping blood down his arm. He appeared to have a rag stuffed in his mouth which Ginny removed.

"Ginny!" Harry gasped. "How did you get here?"

"I Apparated, of course," she replied irritably. "Now, hold still while I cut these ropes."

Using a Cutting Charm, Ginny soon freed him, although she did have to grab him quickly to prevent him falling on his face.

"Not that I'm not pleased to see you, Gin, but how did you know where I was?" Harry persisted. "And come to think of it, when did you learn how to Apparate?"

"I cast a Tracking Charm on you just before you entered the maze," she admitted calmly. "As for Apparating; that was my first attempt. Quick learner, aren't I?"

"I'll say," Harry agreed before limping forward to examine the fallen man.

"Who's he?" Ginny enquired.

"Peter Pettigrew," Harry replied. "This is the bloke that sold out my parents to Voldemort and framed Sirius. He was hiding posing as Scabbers, remember?"

"This is THAT bloke?" Ginny exclaimed. "But this is great! We can take him back and get Sirius cleared of the charges against him. Sirius will be free!"

"Bloody hell, yeah!" Harry gasped, catching on. "Sirius will be a free man! I'll be able to go and live with him. I'll never have to see the bloody Dursleys again!"

"Okay, but we have to be smart about this," Ginny insisted. "And what are we going to do with that?" she asked, pointing to the body that had crawled out of the cauldron.

"I think they were trying to bring him back, Ginny," Harry said nervously, "I think they were trying to bring back… Voldemort."

"Yeah, I think so, too," Ginny agreed. "And by using your blood they would have invalidated all the protections your mum put on you. This was a bloody close thing, Harry. If he'd gotten his body back he would probably have killed you on the spot. We nearly lost everything because of this stupid Tournament."

"Why the hell did Dumbledore allow the bloody thing to go ahead?" Harry moaned. "There must have been some way of getting me out of it."

Ginny pondered the matter for a moment. "You know what, Harry? I think Dumbledore wanted this to happen. Isn't it strange that you seem to end up confronting Voldemort in one form or another ever year? Maybe Voldemort can't be killed in the spirit form he is in now. That's why Dumbledore allowed this to happen. So Voldemort gets a body and he can be defeated."

"That's all well and good, I suppose, but it wouldn't have been too jolly for me, would it?" Harry spat. "If you hadn't arrived, I would have been sacrificed just so Voldemort could become human again."

"Hmm, I'm not sure if Dumbledore meant for this to happen exactly this way. I get the feeling he has these clever plans which get away from him some times. I very much doubt he meant for you to die here," Ginny said. "Wherever here is."

"I think it's wherever Tom Riddle grew up," Harry said. "Look at the name on the headstone I was tied to."

Ginny moved over and examined the stone. There, clearly chiselled into the stone, was the name Tom Riddle. She looked up at Harry in surprise. She immediately guessed the location of the place but kept her mouth shut. There was no way she should know this place was Little Hangleton.

"Wormtail said something about 'bone of the father' during the ritual," Harry explained. "I think this grave belongs to Voldemort's dad."

"Then we destroy it before we leave," Ginny decided after a second. "We make sure that there is no way this ritual can ever be attempted again. Oh, and we burn that ugly bloody thing, too."

Harry stared at the deformed lump lying by the fire. "Yeah, good plan. Then what do we do?"

"Is your mirror still working?" she asked.

"It got cracked when the Portkey set me down. It was a bloody hard landing; no wonder Wormtail was able to stun me so easily. I think we can still talk through it, but we can't see anything," Harry told her.

"That will do," Ginny confirmed. "First, we tidy up here. You look like you could do with a few Healing Charms. Once you're sorted, we destroy all trace of Tom Riddle Senior so no one can try this stunt again. We burn Voldemort's remains and hide any evidence of what happened here. Then, I Apparate back to Hogwarts. I'll call you on the mirror when I'm in place and you can then use the Portkey to return yourself, taking Pettigrew with you. You tell everyone that he tried to kidnap you, but you managed to overcome him. Make sure you cast a Mind Fortress spell on yourself if Dumbledore starts asking questions."

"Do we say nothing about Voldemort?" Harry questioned. "We need to warn people that he's trying to return."

"No one will believe you, Harry," Ginny disagreed. "Most people would crap themselves at the thought of the return of the Dark Lord, so they'll just try to deny it. Besides, we have no proof. Why don't you just say Pettigrew appeared to be starting to perform some sort of ritual before you escaped? That's just about the truth anyway, and people can then make up their own minds."

"Okay, that's what we'll do," Harry agreed, before an expression of distaste came onto his face. "So, what do you want to take care of? Grave robbing or corpse burning?"

"I'll take the grave robbing," Ginny decided. "I'd much rather deal with a pile of dried, old bones than that thing."

"Thanks," Harry muttered, before retrieving his wand from Wormtail's fallen body and marching over to the fire.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

A quarter of an hour later and Ginny was making her way back to the spectator's stands. Both Riddles' remains had been dealt with, and she had successfully Apparated back to Hogwarts. As she drew level with the stands she pulled out the cracked mirror.

"I'm back, Harry. Everybody is still milling around looking lost. You're safe to come back now," she whispered.

"Okay, I'm grabbing the Trophy now," Harry's voice replied. "See you in a second."

Just as Ginny was approaching the Judging position a flash of light indicated Harry's arrival. A gasp went up from the surrounding crowd and a mass of bodies started to hurry over to where Harry had landed.

"Get back! Everyone back!" Ginny heard McGonagall's voice yell forcefully.

"Would everyone please return to the castle immediately!" Dumbledore added, a note of command in his tone.

Of course, most people didn't move a muscle until the teachers started shepherding them away. Ginny calmly ignored everyone until she was a few yards away from where Harry was standing over an inert body. She then put on an expression of panicky relief and ran forward the last few feet.

"Harry!" she cried. "You're alright! I was so worried; you were gone so long."

"I'm okay, Ginny," Harry replied, pulling her into a hug. "Someone just tried to kidnap me, that's all."

"What?" she screeched in mock horror.

"Indeed, Miss Weasley, Harry was just about to explain what had happened," Dumbledore said.

Ginny looked around and saw that the crowd had thinned considerably and now only a handful of people surrounded them. In addition to Dumbledore, Professors McGonagall and Moody, Minister Fudge and her own dear bother Percy were standing looking expectantly at Harry.

"Firstly, can someone make sure this person is secure and can't get away," Harry said, poking the body on the ground with his foot. "Be careful, he's an Animagus and can change into a rat."

"Who is he?" Fudge demanded, just as Harry turned the body over.

"Sweet Merlin, it's Peter Pettigrew!" McGonagall exclaimed. "But he's dead!"

"Obviously not, Professor," Harry disagreed. "Pettigrew kidnapped me and tried to use my blood in some sort of a ritual. Luckily, I managed to escape before he completed it and succeeded in overpowering him."

"But it can't be Pettigrew!" Fudge protested.

"It is, Minister," Harry disagreed. "I recognise him from the family photos I have."

"Right, we'll need to take him in for questioning," Moody declared. "You get yourself cleaned up, Potter, and I'll take care of this maggot."

"I don't think so," Harry disagreed. "Tell me, Moody; why were you meeting up with Barty Crouch so often this term?"

"What are you talking about, Potter?" Moody growled, "I haven't talked to Crouch since the start of this Tournament."

"That's what I thought," Harry replied. "Stupefy!"

Harry had carefully removed his wand while he'd been talking to Moody, using Ginny as cover. The red spell shot from his wand and hit Moody squarely in the chest. The battered old Auror dropped to the ground like a stone.

"What is going on?" shrieked Fudge, staring at Harry like he was going to attack them all.

"Something has been off about Professor Moody all term," Harry insisted. "I don't think it's a good idea to leave Pettigrew in his care."

Frowning, Dumbledore knelt by the side of the fallen man and examined him. After a second, he withdrew the hipflask that Moody always carried with him and opened it. Taking a sniff of the contents, a look of shock appeared on the Headmaster's face.

"This is Polyjuice Potion," Dumbledore declared. "This isn't Alastor Moody! Harry, how did you know?"

"Quite a few things seemed off about him. When he said he'd last met with Barty Crouch at the start of the Tournament, I knew he was lying. There were other things, too. Moody always seemed to be around when something odd happened, and he was one of the few people who could have entered my name in the competition in the first place. Besides, who was responsible for the security of the Triwizard Cup?"

"Moody," Dumbledore answered uneasily. "Well, it doesn't look like we'll have long to wait until we find out who this impostor is. Perhaps we should all relocate to my office to continue this. Minerva, would you be so kind as to locate Severus and ask him to bring us some Veritaserum? Perhaps then you and Filius could mount a search of Moody's office; I suspect the real Alastor must be close by to provide samples for the Polyjuice."

"Right away, Headmaster," McGonagall agreed before hurrying off.

The group all decamped to Dumbledore's office as suggested. Ginny managed to include herself in the group by the simple method of tucking herself under Harry's arm, giving the impression that he was struggling to walk and that she was giving him aid.

When the group arrived at the entrance to the office, Professor Snape was already waiting for them. He sneered at Harry before his eyes went wide at the sight of Peter Pettigrew who was being levitated by Percy. He then looked even more confused when he noticed Moody being transported in a similar fashion by Dumbledore.

The group made their way upstairs and the two miscreants were tied securely to their chairs. Dumbledore also raised an Anti-Animagus Charm over the room, preventing Pettigrew from changing. They were just about to revive Pettigrew to commence the interrogation when the door flew open and the real Alastor Moody entered wearing a brown-checked dressing gown and an expression that could kill from thirty paces.

"Where is the bastard?" Moody growled. "I'll bloody wring his scrawny little neck!"

"Alastor," Dumbledore said warmly. "Good to see you, as it were. Where were you being held?"

"He was locked in the bottom draw of his own truck," Flitwick jumped in earning him a scowl from Moody.

"Really? How long were you in there for, Alastor?" Dumbledore asked.

"Since before the start of term," Moody grumbled. "I haven't stepped out of that bloody truck since August."

"That explains the smell," Harry whispered in Ginny's ear forcing her to clamp her hand over her mouth to stop from giggling.

"But who did this?" Fudge demanded. He'd been looking increasingly bewildered since Harry had arrived back.

"Well, let's… ah! I see the Polyjuice is beginning to wear off. Let's see for ourselves who has been creating all this havoc, shall we?" Dumbledore suggested.

The group gathered round as the man's face began to blur and morph. A few seconds later, rather than Moody's double they found themselves staring at a pale-faced young man with straw coloured hair and a hint of freckles across his nose.

"I don't believe it!" Fudge gasped.

"Believe it!" Moody snapped. "Barty Crouch, Jr! Although how he got out of Azkaban's graveyard is a mystery to me."

"I think we had better revive him and a few questions are in order, don't you agree Cornelius?" Dumbledore pressed.

"What? Oh, yes, I suppose," the Minister mumbled.

Crouch was awakened and the Veritaserum was administered. The man looked around him with pure hatred in his eyes.

"What is your name?" Dumbledore began.

"Barty Crouch, Jr," the man replied.

"How did you escape from Azkaban?" Dumbledore asked.

"By use of Polyjuice. My mother was old and sick and couldn't bare the idea of me being imprisoned. A plan was agreed where during a visit I swapped places with her using the Polyjuice. She remained behind as she knew she didn't have long to live. In the end, she only lasted a day before she died. It's her body that lies in the grave bearing my name. Father escorted me out of prison, but then tried to lock me up at home with only a house-elf for company!"

"Winky!" Harry cried. "The elf that nicked my wand at the World Cup! That was your elf, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Crouch confirmed. "She helped me by stealing your wand so I could finally escape my idiot father. Of course, when I saw that ridiculous group of cretins pretending to be Death Eaters I had to do something. I cast the Dark Mark and laughed as they all nearly wet themselves in fear. Fools! They would never be worthy to serve my master in a million years!"

"And who is your master?" Dumbledore enquired.

"The Dark Lord himself, of course: Lord Voldemort!"

"But he's dead!" Fudge protested.

"You idiot! He is merely waiting to return and when he does you shall all bow before him! That's what this whole stupid Tournament was about; capturing Potter and using his blood so we can resurrect my master."

"Sorry that didn't go too well," Harry said defiantly.

Crouch sneered. "Your presence must mean we failed then. No doubt that moron Pettigrew screwed everything up. I begged my master not to trust him with anything important. But no matter; he will return and when he does he will rip out your still beating heart from your chest and crush it before your eyes, Potter!"

"But this is ridiculous!" Fudge spluttered. "You-Know-Who is long gone; everybody knows that! Crouch must have gone mad and imagined he saw him; that's the only explanation for all this."

"Why don't we see what Pettigrew has to say?" Dumbledore suggested. "But one final question for Crouch. What happened to your father, Barty?"

"He's dead and his body is long gone! I've been issuing orders to that gullible idiot of an assistant of his by owl for months now. Do what you like with me, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing a killed my pathetic father!"

"I see," Dumbledore said solemnly. "I think it's Pettigrew's turn to answer some questions."

They revived the small man and in contrast to Crouch's defiant stares, Pettigrew was positively cringing.

"What is your name?" began Dumbledore after the Veritaserum was administered.

"Peter Pettigrew."

"What can you tell us about the events leading up the deaths of James and Lily Potter, and the arrest of Sirius Black?"

"I betrayed James and Lily, not Sirius. Sirius suggested at the last minute that I should become the Secret-Keeper of the house at Godric's Hollow as he was too obvious a choice. I couldn't believe it! I'd been a spy for the Dark Lord for months at that point, and he had been pressuring me to find out where the Potters had been hiding. And they just handed the address to me. Priceless! I led my master to the house and there he killed James and Lily. I was sorry about Lily because she was always nice to me. He then tried to kill Harry but something went wrong and my lord was struck down. I ran, but two days later Sirius caught up with me. I accused him loudly of being the traitor before blasting a gas line that ran under the street and causing that explosion which killed all those Muggles, not that they were much of a loss. I then cut off my finger so people would assume I'd been caught in the blast, turned into my rat form, and scurried away."

"Where have you been since then?" Dumbledore asked.

"For a long time I stayed in my rat form posing as the pet of a Wizarding family called the Weasleys. It gave me a chance to keep tabs on what was happening and await any sign of my master returning…"

"Scabbers?" Percy interrupted in horror.

"Oh, look, its little Percy," Pettigrew grinned. "Still masturbating using those dirty magazines when everybody thinks you're studying?"

"What?" Percy screeched. "I never! I…"

"Perhaps we could get back on topic?" Dumbledore asked mildly. "Peter, why did you leave the Weasleys?"

"I was discovered," Peter explained. "Somehow, Sirius worked out where I was and came after me. I was young Ron's pet by then and he had brought me here to Hogwarts. Sirius tried to capture me and eventually enlisted the help of Remus Lupin and then Harry and his friends, as well. He would have got me, too, if Severus there hadn't blundered into the middle of things and let me escape."

All eyes turned on Snape who only sneered defiantly.

"Realising I wasn't safe in Britain anymore, I decided to leave and hunt down a rumoured sighting of the Dark Lord. And I found him! Me, the least of all his followers and I was the one to find him in a dark forest in Albania. When some English witch recognised me in an inn outside Tirana I captured her and learnt of the Triwizard Tournament. My master and I then hatched a plan to capture young Harry and use his blood to provide my lord with a body. I still don't know why it didn't work. I guess Harry must have somehow got loose when I wasn't looking and Stunned me."

"I don't believe a word of this!" Fudge roared. "This is all some sort of trick to discredit me! Well, it won't work."

"Cornelius, I'm afraid we must face the truth; Voldemort did not die and is looking to return," Dumbledore said gravely.

"Rubbish!" Fudge bellowed. "I see through your little game, Dumbledore. This is all part of a plan to make me more reliant on you, isn't it? I wouldn't be surprised if you're not trying to oust me from power so you can take my place! Well, I'm not falling for it."

"The general population must be warned so they can prepare against Voldemort's return," Dumbledore insisted.

"Stop saying that name!" Fudge screeched. "This is all poppycock. You-Know-Who is not coming back and I'm not going to stand here and listen to this nonsense."

"Then it appears we face a parting of the ways, Cornelius," Dumbledore said in a stern voice.

"So be it!" Fudge roared. "And you can forget anything this pair of madmen said. I'll be sending a Dementor to administer the Kiss immediately. Frankly, I think it's the kindest thing for them!"

"But what about Sirius!" Harry shouted.

"He'll get Kissed too when we find him," Fudge growled and stomped out of the office. A second later a startled Percy hurried after him.

Ginny looked at Harry's sickened face and realised she had to do something. As much as she hated to admit it, Fudge would only back down if he was offered something in return. She leaned over and quickly whispered in Harry's ear.

"Go after Fudge, Harry," she urged, "offer to make a deal with him."

Harry looked at Ginny in shock for a second before his expression hardened. He leapt up and headed for the door.

"Back in a second," he yelled before anyone could stop him. A second later Ginny was following him down the spiral staircase.

They ran down the corridor after the Minister, who had covered a surprising amount of distance in such a short time.

"Minister! Minister, please wait!" Harry yelled as he ran.

Fudge turned at Harry's shout and stopped. His angry expression didn't bode well. Percy, for his part, looked outraged that they would have even dared approach the Minister for Magic.

"What do you want, Potter?" Fudge growled. "I'm not interested in listening to your fairy tales."

"Minister, I'd like to make a deal," Harry declared, still breathing hard from the running.

Ginny happened to be looking right at the Minister when Harry spoke and she could see the man's whole demeanour change instantly. This was obviously the sort of thing Fudge expected when dealing with people. He was the Minister for Magic and could make things happen, but you had to make it worth his while.

"Really, Mr Potter? What sort of deal are you talking about?" Fudge asked in a calculating voice.

Movement caught Ginny's eye and she noticed one of the portraits hanging on the wall suddenly sit up and start paying attention. She pulled at Harry's sleeve and pointed towards the offending painting.

"Umm, maybe we should discuss this outside," Harry suggested.

Fudge also noticed the portrait's apparent interest in the conversation. "Perhaps that would be a good idea," he agreed.

The four of them made their way down the staircase and into the Entrance Hall. Out of the corner of her eye Ginny could see her brother giving her disapproving stares, but she guessed he daren't say anything in front of the Minister.

Eventually, they reached the front doors. They passed through them and made their way outside. Once they had walked a suitable distance from the castle, they halted and Fudge turned and looked expectantly at Harry.

"Minister, I want to make some sort of deal so my godfather gets a fair trial," Harry blurted.

"Hmm, I'm not sure about that Mr Potter," Fudge replied, shaking his head. "Black's guilt is obvious for all to see. I hardly think that the word of a couple of madmen could possibly be justification for opening up an investigation. The general public trust the Ministry to protect them from criminals; I couldn't risk undermining their faith in us."

"Excuse me, Minister, but I think you're looking at this from the wrong angle," Ginny leapt in. "Surely if you uncovered a grave injustice, like someone being wrongly imprisoned without a trial, the public would respect you more."

"Yes, but who imprisoned Black in the first place? No, the Ministry must remain above reproach," Fudge insisted.

"But it wasn't you that ordered Black thrown in prison, was it?" Ginny pressed. "Surely that happened during Millicent Bagnold's term of office. You could hardly be blamed for something that happened under her orders, could you? Besides, wasn't it Barty Crouch that actually threw Black into Azkaban without a trial? The fact that his Death Eater son is alive and sitting in Dumbledore's office as we speak proves the man was corrupt. Minister, just think how the public would react if it learnt that you, Cornelius Fudge, had uncovered the misdeeds of your predecessors! Through your dynamic leadership an innocent man was pardoned and the guilty brought to justice. Why, you'd be a hero!"

"I'd vote for someone who did all that!" Harry exclaimed, getting into the spirit of things.

"It certainly wouldn't do my reputation any harm," pondered Fudge. "But, no. I can't risk Crouch and Pettigrew going to trial. I'll not have this nonsense about Voldemort returning spreading."

"But you said it yourself, sir," Ginny said. "They believed they were trying to resurrect Voldemort. They certainly didn't succeed and there's no evidence that they ever could have. The important thing is the crimes these two committed, not whatever warped motive they had. Besides, I'm sure a skilled prosecutor would be able to phrase their questions in such a way that their ultimate goal wasn't discussed."

"Possibly," Fudge waivered, "but what about Dumbledore and for that matter Potter here? What are you going to say?"

"Well, I can't speak for the Headmaster," Harry said carefully, "but I'm more than happy to go on record as saying that when I left that graveyard I saw no sign of Voldemort and that I'm convinced that he doesn't walk amongst us."

Fudge looked thoughtfully at Harry, clearly pondering his unusual wording.

"More than that," Harry added, "if Sirius Black is freed then I'd be more than happy to give an interview to the papers saying how impressed I was by your handling of the whole affair."

A small smile of triumph appeared on Fudge's face.

"Alright, Mr Potter, I think you have a deal. I'll arrange for Crouch and Pettigrew to be put on trial and if they repeat their story to the Wizengamot, I'm sure I can arrange a pardon for Sirius Black," Crouch agreed. "In turn, I want you to publically state that You-Know-Who has not returned, despite anything Albus Dumbledore might say, and that you endorse my leadership. Deal?"

"Deal," Harry agreed.

"Excellent! Inform Dumbledore that I will be sending Aurors to take those two reprobates into custody forthwith." Fudge began to walk away but just before he did, he glanced back at Ginny. "And may I ask who you are young lady?"

"That is my young sister Ginevra, Minister," Percy said before Ginny had a chance to speak.

"Your sister, eh?" Fudge noted. "It would appear that politics runs in the family. I look forward to seeing you take a position in the Ministry in the future, young lady."

"Thank you, Minister," Ginny replied with a grin.

Percy and the Minister then turned and started to walk away. They hadn't gone too far when they were interrupted by a shout.

"Hey, Percy," Harry called out. "Have you still got any of those magazines that Pettigrew mentioned that I could borrow?"

Percy swivelled on the spot and glared at Harry, but didn't say anything. Possible the presence of his boss chortling beside him stayed his tongue. Instead, he turned and rapidly walked away with his shoulders rigid. He'd just passed out of sight when Harry and Ginny both burst out laughing.

"Harry, that was priceless!" Ginny said between giggles.

"Sorry, I couldn't help it," Harry laughed. "I was just thinking of all those times when I was at the Burrow when Percy was too busy to come out of his room. Now we know what he was busy doing!"

"Ugh! I don't even want to think about that," Ginny complained, pulling a revolted face. "It's just as well he got a girlfriend in the end, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, he might still be locked up in his room 'working'," Harry snorted, before they both started howling with laughter again. It was sometime before they got themselves back under control.

"I always did think he was a bit of a wanker," Ginny added, setting them both off again. Harry literally dropped to his knees shaking with laughter. Ginny dropped down next to him and they continued laughing for a few minutes. Eventually, their giggles subsided and they became quiet.

"Did we do the right thing, Gin?" Harry asked after a while. "I mean, I feel like I've just sold my soul to the devil."

"It had to be done if Sirius was to be pardoned," Ginny insisted. "What's more important than that?"

"But like Dumbledore said, we need to warn people that Voldemort will be coming back," Harry pointed out.

"Do we?" Ginny challenged. "What will they do if they are told? I'll tell you: nothing. Unless Voldemort pops up and taps them in the shoulder they'll do just like Fudge wanted to do; pretend nothing's happening. They'll close their eyes to what's in front of them and carry on like everything is normal."

"I guess you're right," Harry said sadly. "But then again, you're always right."

"Glad you finally realised it," Ginny said smiling. "Come on, we'd better get back to Dumbledore's office. They'll think Fudge kidnapped us."

They stood and headed back to the school. After a few steps, Harry reached out and took Ginny's hand in his. Together, they made their way back to the Headmaster's to explain what had transpired.