Hi, sorry for the long wait, but now the next chapter is finally ready. Enjoy.
The Calm Before the Storm
Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts from what he considered a satisfying meeting with Amelia Bones. They had discussed the security precautions that were already installed at Hogwarts at the beginning of the school year and which ones he had added since that Halloween debacle. Amelia had also named what she expected to be done by the end of the month, which wouldn't be too hard to make happen. While he would have liked a bit more leeway of exercising his power at Hogwarts, he could work around her demands. It was unfortunate that the troll had caused the attention of the Ministry to be directed at matters that he had previously been able to decide on alone, but it was nothing new that some high bureaucrats wanted to pretend that they had a say in how things were done at Hogwarts.
And, after thinking about the matter for a while, he had spotted a great chance for himself. He had never been able to really totally overhaul the wards of the school, as it would have caused too much scrutiny. But now, when the Ministry actually demanded it, he would be able to argue that the easiest way to bring the wards of the school to the point where they needed to be was taking them down completely, which was a feature the founders had included in them. The founders had known that it could happen that a ward scheme needed to be changed fundamentally to continue providing the needed protection for the students.
And the one that knew most about these wards was he, Albus Dumbledore. During the summer break, he would be able to take them down and then reconstruct them to his liking. There would be the types of protection that the Ministry demanded, but also things he considered very useful. Not to mention, should he totally recreate the famous wards of Hogwarts from scratch, he would become even more famous than he already was. And this would be fresh fame, the kind that would last centuries again. He knew that if you didn't manage to keep in the minds of people, fame could fade quickly. Simply because people needed to experience the reason why you were famous.
Directly after beating Gellert in their duel in 1945, his star had shone brighter than any other's had in living memory. That had continued for about two decades, then it had lessened. It was still there, but the younger generations didn't understand why his achievement was as great as it was as the ones that had suffered in the war did. They were told stories and admired him for his achievement, but it wasn't on a basic instinctive level. Especially not, as Great Britain had been more or less spared from the terror of Gellert's troops.
The people of his home country revered him for being the only one Voldemort had ever feared, but still, he couldn't deal the final blow like he did with Gellert. Still, he had added fresh fame to the minds of those living in Great Britain, just not the absolute kind that had been created before. Slipping into the role of the kind, wise, grandfatherly professor had worked very well in influencing the younger generation to look up to him. And three generations of people teaching their children that Albus Dumbledore was a hero and the Leader of the Light had been very helpful in his endeavours.
Still, after 1981 a new star had risen. The star of Harry Potter, a mere baby that through a stroke of luck became the subject of a prophecy, which also explained why Voldemort couldn't be brought down by Dumbledore himself before. But a baby could easily be formed into his supposed protegee. He just didn't have the time to invest to raise the baby himself. After all, he had a school to run, a Ministry to reshape and send deluded idiots that believed that killing their population was a smart thing to do into life-time detention, which was what he considered Azkaban to be. He hated killing, it was such a waste of talent and magic. But at Azkaban the ones that were out of control couldn't harm others again.
Hence, he had decided to let the baby grow up with his last remaining relatives on his mother's side. He knew that there was bad blood between the sisters, but that was only an advantage for his plans. The boy would be used to adversity, and family would never cross unforgivable limits in how they treated relatives. Still, he hadn't expected Harry to be sorted into Hufflepuff of all places, but it was far better than Slytherin. The boy was a good student, but he didn't stand out too much. He also had a lot of friends in his year, just not the one he had wanted the boy to make. But that, as he had to again admit, was more the fault of Ron Weasley than Harry. If Ron had not proven to be a bully, especially towards friends of Harry, he would have managed to join the group of friends around Harry.
And the children in that group were all from light and neutral families, none of the extremists that had been on Voldemort's side could gain entry into the group.
He had ideas about how to insert his own adjustments into the wards during the summer break. He would have to sit down and use his knowledge about Runes and Arithmancy, which was far ahead of anything that people thought they knew about him, to create unique wards that even the most renowned warding masters would admire. They needed to be flexible, to allow later adjustments, which might be demanded again, but also already covering the areas that were considered problematic by the Ministry. And, as he would have a lot of leeway, he would suggest covering some areas that, so far, hadn't been considered.
As he couldn't get too close to Harry right now, it would work to establish himself in a favourable light for the future. Then Harry would be more open to include his wise council into his life and the adventures that could be arranged for him unsuspiciously.
Minerva looked at Albus, who didn't seem to like that he hadn't been involved in the events that took place this morning.
"Well, you can't really blame the DMLE for acting swiftly without informing you, just because you were absent this morning," Minerva stated, "A threat to the health of all of our people, if the maniacs that aimed to create this disease to be lethal for all witches and wizards, has to be countered as fast as possible."
"I know, but I don't have to like being excluded in the planning and execution, when it concerned the school," Albus replied.
"I doubt Alastor would have let you interfere in his work at all. You know how he is. And you can be sure that nothing untoward was going on while he was in charge of a mission like that. He is one of your oldest friends after all," Minerva pointed out.
"Yes. I know that Alastor would make very sure that the job was done properly. I guess it's just that with the whole things that are going on, I'm a bit sensitive to only getting information when it's already too late to actually do something about a situation," Albus played resigned.
"To be honest, that was our fault. We did let things get to levels that the students refused to continue ignoring anymore. And if they hadn't chosen the way they did, with irrefutable evidence being compiled, it would have continued like that. I don't like it any more than you do, Albus, but we can't deny the facts. And I have heard from many students, while I wandered around in my animagus form, that the changes that have already been started were seen mainly positive," Minerva told him.
"At least something. I just don't want too much negative press concerning Hogwarts out there. The parents have to trust us to protect and educate their children properly. I know that the only reason that the student numbers didn't drop more during the war times was that Hogwarts was considered the safest place in the British Isles. I don't want that the be undone by some, even if the anger about what happened is justified, lesser trouble. The number of child births is low enough for our people. And you know as well as I do that this school has always been the major meeting place for the young generation to find their partners. Otherwise the families will only look into their own acquaintances for matches for their children, which leads to problems with the magic of the children."
It was an observation that headmasters had made in the past and which was passed on to any new head and deputy of the school. One reason why they worked so hard to include new blood into the school. They knew that marrying too close to your own family was bad, but the idiots of the pureblood supremacy movement didn't want to understand it. Neither of the two knew about the research done by muggles about incest and genetics. They just went by what had been observed by wizards and witches that led the school over centuries. And without any proof, the supremacists refused to listen to them. The easier way was letting them get to know other children when the new generation was still young and let them find their matches on their own.
Even if some families put too much pressure on their children, the majority still wanted the best for them and that included finding love. The teachers didn't really play matchmaker at the school, that wasn't their business, but there weren't as many broom cupboards as there were for nothing. And with potions mixed into the students' food to prevent pregnancies, as not every witch would go to Poppy for help with her female problems, and the potion against cramps was a contraceptive one, they could be reasonably sure that while they allowed things to take place, they weren't acting irresponsibly. And the following generation had to start somewhere.
"I know, Albus. But this time around, there won't be any specific bad press about the school. The focus will be the threat caused by the infested rats that could be spread out all over the country. And I'm glad that Amelia convinced Fudge to let her act decisively this time around instead of sweeping everything under the rug, like he normally likes to do. If anybody asks us, we can tell them that we, of course, fully supported the Ministry's taken precautions and allowed them to take all the rats from Hogwarts, just to make sure that nobody was in danger of getting sick. Add some comments about hoping that the DMLE will soon catch the culprits and done. We did follow Alastor's instructions like asked after all, so we are out of the line of fire," Minerva pointed out.
"Yes. Perhaps I should just send a notice to the Daily Prophet for them to quote me by, instead of waiting until one of their vultures like Rita Skeeter turn up here at the school," Albus pondered.
"That would be helpful. We don't want her snooping around here, getting quotes from extremist-thinking students to give a picture that simply isn't accurate," Minerva agreed.
"Then I will send it directly to Barnabas Cuffe, as he would be the best person to get it printed in the paper before anybody can act otherwise," Albus nodded and Minerva left his office to continue her other duties at the school.
The DMLE was very busy. They had conducted fifty raids overall just the first day, all disguised as the inspection for the infected rats. By now, thirty suspected supporters of Voldemort were in the holding cells, much to Moody's satisfaction, it included Lucius Malfoy, whose secret stash of dark artefacts under his living room floor hadn't been hidden to Moody's eyes. His wife Narcissa Malfoy was also there, as she too bore a dark mark, and, after finding that many dark magical artefacts, including one diary that stunk of the darkest magic, they had arrested both of them.
Next to that people like Crabbe, Goyle, Nott, Selwyn, Macnair and others had also been arrested. It would take time to investigate each case properly, but they had that time. Thanks to Amelia Bones directly informing Fudge about the results of the raids, including how bad the things that the aurors had found truly were, the Minister didn't want to touch their cases with a ten-foot pole. He understood enough about incriminating evidence to know that, even if they had donated to his campaign, they would only drag him down with them, should he try using his office's power to get them out.
No, he could simply state, if some reporter asked about the donations, that he had believed what he had been told by his predecessor, namely that they had been imperiused. If new evidence indicated differently, he would leave it to the experts of the DMLE to find out what was true and what a lie. Simple and nobody could blame him.
Many ministry workers had also been startled when the aurors arrived with the first rats. Nobody had ever seen that many rats in one place, and a lot of them made disgusted faces. Rats weren't popular, especially in those numbers. There was a secured room with thousands of cages, in which the rats were placed, all of them charmed unbreakable and magic dampening. All the aurors were briefed on why that was the case, after all, nobody wanted Pettigrew to escape again. That would be a disaster.
By now, an emergency fireplace, which was manned by a junior auror that had been told what to tell the concerned people when they wanted to know what to do was working all around the clock. The DMLE had also asked the press release office to give the Daily Prophet an official statement, which would be appearing in the paper the next day. The one manning the fireplace was also equipped with a calendar, in which the concerned citizens could make appointments to have their property inspected by a team of aurors.
The floo hadn't stopped being called ever since the middle of the afternoon, when the first inspections were done and the owners of the houses called their friends with the news. Overall, there was panic in some places, and relief in others. Thankfully they had got the ones that would have given them the most trouble the first day. And a few days in a holding cell, while the aurors were busy, well that couldn't be changed.
After one week of inspections and raids, the overall number of calls at the auror office decreased again. Thankfully, for the aurors that was, the cover story was taken well enough and the swift action to deal with possible results was appreciated. Though some people asked why it took days to get all private properties inspected, which was answered by Amelia Bones in a press conference. They simply didn't have more aurors and they already worked double shifts. They were people and they needed sleep like every other person.
It had a nice side effect that the press was crying for more money to employ more aurors. The DMLE certainly didn't mind that side-effect at all and once they got the Death Eaters that got away directly after the war imprisoned for good, it would be much easier to get it done. People like Lucius Malfoy had whittled away the personnel of the DMLE that was specialised in higher-level cases bit by bit. The Magical Law Enforcement Patrol had been kept as the main police force of the magical world in Great Britain, but the aurors, their elite, had been reduced with arguments that the war was over after all and they weren't needed in the previously high numbers anymore.
Considering that people wanted that things returned to normality quickly, it had happened slowly but surely. Now, people realised why it was a bad idea to weaken their first line of defence in emergencies like this one and they wanted it changed again. Fudge, realising the way the wind was blowing, agreed to involve an increase of the DMLE's budget during the next Wizengamot session. That bought him enough time. The next planned session was in three weeks after all and they couldn't just pull aurors from behind some curtain. They needed to be trained up, which took time. But the scenario that the DMLE had thought up to cover up the chase for Pettigrew made the Minister realise that, should such a thing actually happen, his most important department at the Ministry wouldn't be able to act decisive enough to stop the threat.
He hadn't realised it before, simply because most people that had advised him in the past had claimed that the country didn't need to pay that much money for aurors, when things were peaceful. But now, seeing the reaction to a fake emergency by the people, made him wake up and act before he could be called up for failing in his job. Right now, he hadn't been in office long enough to be blamed on the situation. He could step up and be seen as the one that realised a problem and did something about it. That was always good for the publicity of a politician. Next to managing to bring good publicity to the whole country. It was another area he thought how to make happen. He knew that he needed that capital soon enough, once the scandal about Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew broke.
Keith smiled when he watched his wife feed their daughter. It was an incredible feeling to know that they had created this perfect new witch. And a test done by Jessica's healer friend had confirmed that Vanessa had magic. Where most healers didn't know how to do it, Rachel had studied in Japan, where traditional magic and traditional muggle healing overlapped a lot and the healers always had to do a year to study traditional medicine during their training. It led to some interesting revelations. Muggles and magicals differed on a cellular level. By investigating the discovery of the field of genetics, one of the youngest muggle sciences, a Japanese healer had discovered that while muggles and magicals were similar, there was a difference in their DNA.
Muggles had forty-six chromosomes, with the X and Y chromosomes determining their gender. Magicals had fifty chromosomes, meaning two additional pairs, which carried the magical DNA. How no muggle geneticist had noticed that part, nobody knew, but it was determined and confirmed in several tests, performed in Japan. The Japanese researchers had concluded that either the muggles had, via mutation, lost the two additional chromosomes over the course of centuries, or that it was the other way round, that those two additional genes were caused by a mutation and allowed the witches and wizards to harness magic.
The first theory was considered more plausible, as tests with animals, plants and other magical races had shown that they all had more chromosomes compared to their non-magical counterparts. Starting from that, follow-up research had been performed and ancestors of muggleborns were examined to find out if they were truly muggleborns, or descended from squibs. Which were actually quite rare in the magical world. Keith knew that the families always kept squibs secret, because they were a shame for them, but when they were sent into the muggle world and had families there, the magical gene would be passed on.
The Japanese tests hadn't found a single muggleborn that didn't have a magical ancestor down the line. Among the parents of muggleborns, the majority had a dormant set of chromosomes with the information about magic. Squibs had forty-eight pairs of chromosomes, meaning, the missing second additional pair was actually the reason why they couldn't actively use magic, but still see things like magical creatures. If a couple consisted of two squibs, and they weren't closely related, chances were good that the child would have fifty chromosomes, and thus be a witch or wizard.
Inbreeding, which was known to the muggle world, was the main problem why magical genes were damaged. Others were curses, physical and emotional abuse, poisoning and accidents. Especially in children there was a large risk of the chromosomes being damaged, which was probably the reason for a child instinctively protecting itself with accidental magic. There were different levels of magicals, squibs being the lowest level, then there were hedge wizards and witches, who normally had one of their magical chromosomes damaged in some way and thus couldn't harness their full power, and then normal witches and wizards, with four healthy magical chromosomes. It was a fascinating discovery and it allowed a healer to easily determine if a child had magic or not. A simple blood test could tell you the number of chromosomes, the Japanese healers had developed a test for that, and you knew for sure.
Not that it would have mattered to them, but it was a very useful argument against the pureblood supremacists that always went on and on about how muggleborns weren't true witches and wizards. He had informed other muggleborns in the group that was working from the background to change things, until they could act in the open, and all of them had started to figure out from which family they were descended. It would be a slap into the face of the idiots if they could claim old vaults at Gringotts, which had got locked up until an heir could claim them via a blood test. After all, wouldn't it be funny to see arrogant people like Lucius Malfoy finding out that he had a cousin that had been believed to be a muggleborn?
Rachel had told them all about it when she tested Vanessa. Next to determining that Vanessa was a witch, she had also determined that she was healthy and developing properly. Magical babies needed more nutrients than muggle babies. Which was the reason why certain baby potions had been developed. They immunised the babies against the worst kinds of diseases that magical babies could contract, and also added the important nutrients to their diet.
With muggleborns, well, they normally showed signs of being hungry more often than non-magical babies. Most muggle parents simply adjusted their feeding of the babies and they often started eating solid food earlier. And no matter if muggle or magical, if a mother breastfed her baby, more important nutrients would automatically be transferred to the baby.
Keith was very relieved that Harry had already been over a year old when his parents had been murdered, as he had already reached the phase where he ate solid food like porridge, mushed potatoes and the like. This way, the neglect of the Dursleys didn't harm him more than it already did on the emotional level.
Amelia Bones looked through the room with the rat cages. It was time to get started in checking all these rats if one of them was Peter Pettigrew. She was currently wearing a bubble head charm, as they had chosen the simplest way to not have any of the rats give them trouble. They had flooded the room with a sleeping gas to knock all the rats out. All aurors wore the same bubbles around their heads.
"Alright," Her voice was somewhat dampened by the charm, "Everybody knows what to do. Check each rat carefully with the animagus revealing charm, next to a charm to find any tampering with them. Those that are clean, will be taken to the room next door. I want the rats that were identified as pets to be done first, then the ones that were marked food for owls or other animals."
"Yes, boss," The aurors chorused and set to work on this huge task.
Amelia left them to it, under the watch of Rufus Scrimgeour, while she went to get started on the first prisoners that were taken. There was a lot to do and not much time. Thankfully, carte blanche also meant that she could use veritaserum if there was sufficient proof for any suspect activity. Fudge hadn't even read what he had signed. And sufficient proof in this case meant that if it sufficed to get them arrested, it would be enough for veritaserum. She was definitely very happy about this.
It's a bit of a filler chapter, but the information and developments here will become important later in the story. Until next time.