Trials and Tribulations: Part 2
Jennifer woke to the early morning sunlight of summer streaming through the window. It was very welcome after being held captive shackled to a pillar in the dark musty basement of her own home for months.
As she had for the last three days every morning, Jennifer opened the window and breathed in the fresh air, finding a small measure of solace in the bright blue sky and puffy little clouds scudding by. But despite all, Jennifer was still unhappy and frightened; she could find little pleasure in the cool breeze and the beauty outside, and wondered if she would would ever know joy again.
And Jennifer was very puzzled as to where she was; all she knew was that she was obviously in a private ward of some sort of hospital. It certainly wasn’t in Dorset judging by the mountains, and the woods nearby full of ancient oaks and tall evergreens looked too old to be anywhere in England. And the shimmering blue lake was the largest she had ever seen.
Nor was there any indication that she was in a city or town. There wasn’t a single tall building in sight, nor any buildings for that matter, as if the hospital were sitting all alone in the middle of the countryside. Which was very odd considering that her hospital room appeared to be very high up from the verdant green lawn which she could see down below.
Jennifer began to wonder if she was in some sort of mental hospital. All of the creepy ones in films appeared to always be in some out of the way location, as if the residents were too deranged to be housed anywhere near polite society. Given some of the bizarre things she had seen which couldn’t possibly be real, Jennifer considered the possibility that the hallucinations indicated that she belonged in an institution.
The soft nightgown against her skin was only moderately comforting as well. Though it felt good to be wearing clothes again, Jennifer was still haunted by the humiliation and degradation of being kept unclothed throughout her entire captivity. She could still see the men at the top of stairs ogling her, stayed only by the jealousy of her tormenter. Jennifer still felt exposed, and she wondered if she would ever get over the shame of it.
Though she had obviously been cleaned on the outside, Jennifer doubted that the dirt and filth inside her could ever be scrubbed away. Ratface had stripped her of every last bit of dignity, violated her in every way imaginable - the betrayal of her sanity by the response of her own body - the guilt was too much to bear.
Jennifer couldn’t escape him in her dreams or her waking moments - she couldn’t escape the fear. She could still feel him on top of her. She could still smell the stench of his breath, still see his leering face looming over her.
No amount of fresh air, no amount of sunshine, no amount of clean clothes could ever make up for that.
And though she was grateful to her rescuer, to be found in such a state by the old man with a long white beard was mortifying. And though the nurse who looked after her was kind and gentle, Jennifer could never meet her eyes, afraid that the nurse would be able to see what she had become.
Jennifer heard voices approaching her room on the other side of the doorway. Instinctively she returned to her bed and huddled in the corner, drawing her knees to her chest and letting her long ebony hair cover her face.
“...I’m not sure Albus. It may be too soon. The poor thing hasn’t said a single word to me in four days...”
Jennifer heard a sigh, and she recognised the warm voice of the old man replying.
“I understand Poppy, but if I am to help... to explain in a way which will help Miss Watts begin to make sense of things and move forward, then I need to see her. Perhaps a calming draught would be of some benefit before I enter.”
“Very well Albus... Just a moment then.”
The door opened and the nurse entered the room. Smiling kindly, she handed Jennifer a little vial.
“There you go dear... down the hatch with the lot of it.”
Dutifully, Jennifer complied. A warm tingly numbness filled her in moments. She trembled a bit when the old man with a long white beard entered and sat in the bedside chair. She wondered if the old man was a doctor, though he seemed to be dressed rather oddly. Peeking between the strands of hair covering her face, Jennifer couldn’t help but be drawn to his piercing blue eyes.
The wizened old man caught her gaze and returned it intently. After a few moments his features softened and he spoke to her with a gentle voice.
“My apologies Miss Watts, would you prefer that I call you Jennifer?”
Jennifer nodded, feeling slightly calmer at being addressed with some familiarity.
“I am not a doctor, Jennifer, I am a headmaster, and this is not a mental facility... this is a school for children with very unusual abilities...”
For some reason that she couldn’t quite fathom, Jennifer managed to find her voice. She needed to know...
“My... my parents?” she whispered.
“I am very sorry...” The old man’s voice cracked slightly, and for a moment his features appeared even more ancient as grief crossed them. “Your parents did not survive...”
Jennifer nodded, tears trickling down her cheeks. She had expected as much. She recalled a flash of green lightning and her mother collapsing. The old man gave her a few minutes to process the information before continuing.
“You might be wondering why you are in a school and not under the care of the police or the NHS. As I mentioned, this is a very different sort of school... a school for children with special abilities. And the reason you are here is because the persons who committed the outrages upon you and your family also have such special abilities.
“As difficult as this may be to believe, you are not going mad - you and your family were attacked by Dark wizards....”
Jennifer’s eyes widened. “I... I’m not crazy?”
“No... you are not. Though you have been severely traumatised. Due to certain circumstances, we are unable to treat you at an appropriate facility... However we are not without means, and I believe we can help you deal with the worst of it by the end of summer - though recovery in these situations can be a long-term ongoing process.
“And although you won’t be able to stay here after term starts, we do have someone who can look after you. Her name is Hestia Jones, and I will make the introductions this afternoon, if you think you can manage it. And I expect you might like to get out of this room for a bit... see the grounds.”
Jennifer nodded again. “Alright... I think I can manage. Thank you... for everything - for rescuing me... for looking after me.”
Dumbledore dabbed at his glistening eyes with a hanky. For the second time within the space of a few months, he had been forced to relive some of the worst bits of his own life. Unlike Astoria, Jennifer Watts looked nothing like his sister, but Dumbledore couldn’t help but see Ariana when he looked at Jennifer.
Madam Pomfrey peered at him with concern, leavened by a measure of relief.
“Good heavens Albus... How did you manage to get her to talk?”
“Well, I am a headmaster after all, Poppy. It comes with the territory... I suppose I just have a way with children and young people.”
After returning to his office Dumbledore found Madam Bones awaiting him; he recounted his conversation with Jennifer Watts.
“Really Albus, did you have to tell the poor girl everything?” Amelia grumbled, thinking that she almost preferred the old Dumbledore who played everything close to the vest. “Wouldn’t it have been better for the girl to have got whatever information we needed and obliviated the poor thing?”
Albus shook his head, sighing at having to repeat the conversation which he’d previously had with Madam Pomfrey.
“Perhaps at one time I would have agreed wholeheartedly Amelia, but obliviations are not to be done lightly - they are only a temporary measure at best in situations such as this... No doubt for the foreseeable future it will still often prove to be to the benefit of all to obliviate casual observers for their own protection and ours. But I would rather avoid it when at all possible. Obliviation can be quite damaging to fragile minds, and Miss Watts’ has endured quite enough strain as it is.
“Hestia Jones will be more than happy to look after Miss Watts for the time being and make sure that she gets the care she needs. The young woman will be safe, and so will our secrets.
“It is quite a violation of personal sovereignty after all, and I have rather come to think that obliviations ought to be reserved for enemies except under the direst of circumstances or utmost necessity. Remember, this is the Order, not the DMLE Amelia, and I am beginning to believe that our relationships as wizards with the muggle world would benefit from less secrecy rather than more.
“We can at least protect this one victim from being harmed again by either Voldemort’s forces or the Minister’s... That is all I really have to say on the matter. In the meantime, please look after yourself and the Potters' family members well. As Alastor would say... Constant Vigilance!”
Amelia smiled at Dumbledore's attempt to cheer her up, despite his own obvious distress. And she was pleased to see a twinkle spark in his eye.
“Oh, well done Mr Weasley! This will do very nicely indeed,” Dolores gushed. “I never imagined that you would find an extra charge for Mr Potter and charges for Mrs Potter as well.”
Percy Weasley looked very pleased with himself at having earned such high praise from the Minister. He had been working diligently, getting very little sleep in the last 36 hours.
“I want you to know Mr Weasley,” Dolores continued, “that whatever happens in the Wizengamot on Monday, you will continue to hold my highest regard. The Wizengamot is a political game...
“It will be up to me to convince those who may be reticent to prosecute the Potters that it is necessary. If we fail, it will only be due to the low standards to which far too many on the Wizengamot still hold Mr Potter.”
“Thank you Minister - I understand. The only problem now is that I’m not certain how to inform the Potters of the charges,” said Percy, frowning. “Apparently they never returned to Potter’s home at Privet Drive, and that’s the only address which the Ministry has on file.”
The Minister looked pensive for a moment, then she peered apologetically at her Deputy.
“I know this is asking rather a lot of you Mr Weasley, but perhaps you could give the Summonses to your father to deliver to the Potters. From what you have told me of your family’s connections to them, he is sure to know how to reach them.”
Percy’s face darkened at the mention of his father, but he wasn’t about to disappoint the Minister.
“Yes Minister,” Percy replied, nodding briskly, “I’ll do it immediately...”
“Father, I’m getting sick of being cooped up in here. I feel much better. When are we leaving?”
“Now, now, Draco. Our host has been most gracious - very kind indeed. Would you rather that you were still languishing in Azkaban? ”
“But she doesn’t even have any House Elves,” Draco whined. “I hate doing the dishes. It’s for servants.... And it’s bloody hard with just one hand.”
“But the food is more than acceptable - it’s the least we can do,” Lucius sighed, passing Draco another sudsy plate to rinse and set in the drying rack.
“I don’t know why we can’t just leave now,” grumbled Draco. “Madam Bones is gone now. Why haven’t I been pardoned yet? I don’t understand.”
“Soon Draco. Until the Minister has purged Dumbledore’s people from the DMLE and convinced the Wizengamot to ratify a pardon, you will be considered a fugitive. And considering that our home has been destroyed, I daresay we are safer here. We will have to watch our backs for the Dark Lord and the fools who have returned to his side.”
“Well the sooner the better.” Draco scowled, nearly dropping the plate that he had rinsed. “I want to get out of here and kill Potter and his pet Mudblood. And when I do, I want to take that Greengrass whore for my own.”
Lucius smiled indulgently. Like father, like son. Draco was too young to understand politics, but he at least understood his rightful place in the order of things.
Lucius was still appalled at the betrayal of his wife. She had belonged to him. His father, Abraxas, had paid a pretty penny to Cygnus Black for her. Lucius frowned, for the umpteenth time contemplating the inadequacy of the Marriage Contract his father had signed. The Blacks were cunning indeed, always seeking an angle to ensure the growth of their fortune, and they had unfortunately bred the most defiant and treacherous women as well.
Lucius shook his head. At least Dolores understood her place. She was a strong woman, perhaps not the most attractive, but she knew that her strengths were best employed in the services of those of superior social standing and blood-status.
Dolores had done well devising the plan to get rid of that bumbling fool of a blood-traitor, Cornelius Fudge. Lucius had been working on Cornelius for some time, offering sums of money for various projects, but Cornelius had been far too reliant on that muggle-lover Dumbledore for his political views, and for his access to the Wizengamot.
Still, Dolores was a woman, Lucius reasoned. It would be foolish to ever completely trust a woman, and Abraxas had not raised Lucius to be a fool.
“Have patience Draco. If the Minister and Senior Undersecretary Weasley are successful, your wishes could be granted sooner than you think.”
“Percy the Poodle!” Draco smirked. “Good for him! I never thought I’d see the day that I actually thought a Weasley had any potential.”
“Indeed...” a cruel smile played across the elder Malfoy’s features. Once he had exacted vengeance against Narcissa and those who had harmed his son, Lucius would be certain to reward Percy Weasley handsomely for choosing to stand for the proper order of things.
Breakfast at Number Twelve on Thursday was interrupted by the arrival of an extremely agitated Arthur Weasley. Uncharacteristically, he stumbled out of the floo, wheezing and covered in ash, holding two envelopes.
“What’s that you’ve got there Arthur?” growled Mad Eye. “Potter and I are just gettin’ ready to leave for Gringotts...”
“It’s...er... quite awkward really Alastor,” Mr Weasley glanced at Hermione. “I think Mrs Potter’s presence in Ragnok’s office may also be necessitated. The Minister, unable to locate Harry or Mrs Potter in Little Whinging, had my son Percy deliver these to me first thing this morning...”
“Merlin’s bollocks Arthur, get to the bloody point,” snapped Moody. “Just let me see that. Two Summonses? We were only expecting one!”
Mad Eye snatched the letters from Arthur’s hand and inspected them with his magical eye for booby traps. His jaw dropped, his face twisting in anger. He passed one letter to Harry and the other to Hermione.
Frowning, Hermione tore open her envelope and gasped when she finished reading it.
“H... Harry, look at this. I can’t believe it.” Hermione passed him the letter, her hand trembling.
“You’re joking!?” Harry gasped furiously when he read the demand for Hermione to appear in court for being an accessory to the crime of the willful destruction of Ministry Property and violating the International Statute of Secrecy. Harry’s own Summons had also added the charge of violating the International Statute of Secrecy to his charges of destroying 416 Dementors.
Harry put his arm around Hermione, who was on the verge of hyperventilating.
“This is absolutely outrageous!” Jean fumed, reading over Hermione’s Summons. “These documents have been signed and approved by a Senior Undersecretary Percival Ignatius Weasley.”
Jean glared at Arthur Weasley, who looked as if he wanted to crawl into a hole in the ground.
“I...I...I’m d...d...dreadfully sorry...” Arthur stammered, his face flushed in shame. “M...my... son,” Arthur could barely bring himself to say it, “My...er... son was recently promoted and taken on by the Minister herself.”
“It’s not Mr Weasley’s fault Mum,” Harry glumly told Jean. “Percy’s had it in for me ever since he joined the Ministry... thought I was a bit of a troublemaker apparently.” Then a flare of rage blazed in Harry’s eyes. “I thought he was alright with Hermione though...”
“We’ll get this sorted,” Moody interjected, “We’ve got an appointment with Gringott’s Solicitor Advocate at 9:30 anyway...”
Ragnok peered down his long pointy nose studiously at the Summonses and snorted, shaking his head. Taking off his reading glasses, the goblin massaged his forehead then glanced back at the Potters and Moody with raised eyebrows.
“Well, I cannot promise anything in regards to the decision of the Wizengamot Mr and Mrs Potter,” said Ragnok. “Politics plays too large of a role for me to make any guarantees. But I can indeed promise you that the law - as it currently stands - is in your favour.
“First, the Ministry has no standing when it comes to actions taken on Hogwarts grounds unless charges are brought forth by the parents of students under the age of majority, or staff-members. Secondly, the stationing of Dementors on Hogwarts grounds is illegal without the express permission of the headmaster.
“Thirdly - and most importantly - there is no basis for the charges as it cannot be proved that either of the Potters were responsible for the destruction of the Dementors. No known spell exists which is capable of doing so.
“Which leads to the fourth point... there is no proof that either of the Potters broke the International Statute of Secrecy - and frankly I am at a loss as to what the basis for that charge is, as it is not stated in the Summonses.”
“Which is what we’ve been sayin’ all along. So whaddya say Ragnok?” growled Moody. “Will you take the case then?”
“Yes indeed,” the goblin answered without hesitation, his eyes narrowing, “This is one of the most blatant and egregious cases of False Charges that I have seen in quite some time. It is possible that the Minister is planning on using these charges to establish new precedents, giving the Ministry legal grounds for Ministry oversight regarding the administration of policy at Hogwarts.”
The next few days drew out agonisingly. Harry and Hermione spent some time with Dora, Fleur, Susan, and Dudley, playing games and watching films, but most of the time they spent in Number Twelve’s library, going over the law books so that they knew what they were in for, even though Ragnok had insisted that he do all of the talking.
Finally it was Monday. Moody, Dora, and Fleur escorted them both through London to the red phone-box which was the Visitor's Entrance to the Ministry.
“Right then. This is where I get off,” Mad Eye growled. “I’m persona non grata in the Ministry at the moment, so Tonks will take you the rest of the way, and Mulligan will meet you inside. Ragnok will meet you outside the Wizengamot chambers.
“We’re two hours early, because I wouldn’t put it past the Minister to change the time to try and wrong-foot you. I’d say ‘good luck,’ but you’ve got Ragnok on your side, and he’s never lost a case.”
“Thanks Professor Moody...” said Harry; Hermione peered at Moody gratefully.
“Bonne chance, ‘Arry, ‘Ermione,” said Fleur. “I know all will be well.” Then Fleur gave Dora a kiss. “I weell be back. I go shopping in ze meantime...”
“Well don’t stand about jawin’ all day! Get a move on...” Moody said gruffly. But then his features softened slightly, “Tonks has got your back you two.”
Dora rolled her eyes at Moody, then returned Fleur’s kiss before leading the Potters into the phone-box. After they had passed through the security checkpoints Dora kept an eye out for Auror Mulligan in the Ministry’s atrium.
“There you are,” grumbled Dora, after looking for a few minutes. “I thought you’d be meetin’ us by the security checkpoint at the Visitor’s Entrance.
“Sorry Tonks...” Mulligan puffed, looking very out of breath. “I got held up... I just got notice that the time of the trial has been moved up - it begins in half an hour.”
“Of course,” Dora sighed. “Luckily Mad Eye was dead to rights on that score. We’d better hurry.”
As she and Mulligan led them down to the lowest levels of the Ministry, Hermione clutched Harry’s arm tightly, trying her best to avoid the stares of Ministry workers and visitors who all appeared to be quite aware of the trial. A few cameras went off, and a reporter from the Daily Prophet tried to get a statement from the Potters.
“No comment,” Mulligan declared authoritatively as he roughly shoved the reporter out of the way.
“Bugger off or I’ll make you eat that camera!” Dora snapped at the Prophet’s cameraman.
Harry grit his teeth, his anger battling with his anxiety. Harry glared back at anyone he caught staring at them until they looked away nervously. After an elevator ride worthy of the Gringotts rail-carts to the vaults, they found themselves on the tenth level of the Ministry. The stone corridors were dark and forbidding.
Finally, they entered a little antechamber next to the Wizengamot’s trial chambers where Ragnok was waiting for them. Ragnok nodded curtly; Mulligan remained outside the door, keeping guard.
“Good thing you’re early,” said Ragnok. “The trial will begin in a few minutes. Don’t forget: say nothing until I give the all-clear.”
“I’ll be standin’ behind you two officially as an Auror,” Dora began, then, lowering her voice to a whisper, “But as your friend, I’m watchin’ out for you two. Whatever happens in there, I’m gettin’ you both outta here... promise.” Dora embraced Hermione and Harry, giving them both a kiss on the cheek.
Mulligan entered the anteroom and beckoned them forth. “It’s time...they’re all setting up now.”
Harry felt rather sick with anxiety as he followed Dora and Mulligan into the trial-chamber with Hermione. There were perhaps over fifty people in plum-coloured robes sitting in the benches staring at them as they entered.
But seeing that smirking Toad of a Minister and the smug look on Percy's face filled Harry with a fury which washed all nervousness away. Feeling Hermione trembling slightly beside him, Harry tightened his arm around her, and glared at Minister Umbridge. She and Percy, and a few others in the seats near the podium wore black robes.
Harry glanced at the inscription on the podium and snorted. “Ignorantia juris neminem excusat,” it read. He wasn’t brilliant at Latin by any means; but Harry had picked up enough from learning spell incantations, and at least two of the words were close enough to their modern English forms that he could have worked it out without knowing any Latin at all.
The Minister’s smirk changed to a look of disgust when she saw the Goblin enter the chambers and stand between her and the Potters. Minister Dolores Umbridge felt her chest tighten. Why hadn’t she been informed of Ragnok’s presence? She glanced at the two Aurors present, and made a note to herself to find out who their immediate superiors were. Her confidence slightly shaken, Minister Umbridge cleared her throat and began the proceedings.
“Ahem...hem... The Criminal Trial, Third of July, of Harry James Potter and Hermione Jean Potter née Granger, residence unknown, is now called into session. Interrogators: Minister of Magic - Dolores Jane Umbridge, Acting Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement - Dolores Jane Umbridge, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister - Percival Ignatius Weasley. Court Scribe -”
“...Is unimportant. Ragnok, Solicitor Advocate of Gringotts Bank - speaking for the Defence. If the Minister is finished wasting Gringotts’ Client’s and the Wizengamot’s time, perhaps we can get on with things. ”
Minister Umbridge narrowed her eyes and Percy gasped at the Goblin’s open display of disrespect.
Harry and Hermione were a bit perplexed themselves. Shouldn’t Ragnok be trying to placate those sitting in judgment on them? Harry caught the eye of Warlock Greengrass in the stands. Warlock Greengrass, and several other Wizengamot members seated next to him appeared to be smirking and chuckling.
“If you insist Mr Ragnok, let’s get to it then, shall we!?” the Minister began coldly. “Your client - Mr Harry James Potter - is charged with the willful destruction of Ministry Property - namely 416 Dementors - and one charge of violating the International Statute of Secrecy.”
“Mr Potter’s...ahem... wife, Mrs Hermione Jean Potter née Granger is charged as an accessory to the willful destruction of Ministry Property and one charge of violating the International Statute of Secrecy. How do your clients plead?”
The Wizengamot chambers broke into a murmur, seemingly divided into sounds of bewilderment at the charges, and sounds of approval. When loud stage whispers which sounded suspiciously like “muggleborn” could be heard over the hubbub, Hermione shrank back against Harry and bit her lip.
The Minister banged her gavel twice and the stands fell silent once more. Ragnok, who had waited for the noise to pass, answered the charges.
“My clients Warlock Potter and his wife Madam Potter, plead Not Guilty on all counts, and we move that the court dismiss all charges immediately as being utterly without foundation in fact or law.” Ragnok folded his spindly fingers together and peered shrewdly back at the Minister.
Minister Umbridge’s nostrils flared, her cheeks turning pink, and Percy glanced aside swallowing nervously.
“Over 1,600 wizards and witches - including Hogwarts students and staff - witnessed the destruction of the Dementors by Mr Potter,” Minister Umbridge proffered in a treacly voice. “Not to mention the several hundred Muggles in nearby towns who reported odd lights in the night sky on the evening of June 24th - hence the charge of violating the Statute of Secrecy.”
Ragnok raised his eyebrows. “Can the Minister demonstrate that Warlock Potter cast the spell which destroyed the Dementors? Where is the evidence that he, himself cast the spell, with the alleged assistance of his wife? And by what spell do you propose that Warlock Potter and his wife destroyed the Dementors? None that we know of exists...”
“Aha!” Umbridge perked up and pointed her forefinger at the ceiling, “‘None that we know of’ indeed... Perhaps if Mr Potter would offer up his wand for examination, and his testimony under veritaserum...”
“Absolutely not!” Ragnok bristled with outrage. “Warlock Potter, as Head of his House, is perfectly within his rights to refuse the Court’s demands, given that no charges have been brought forth by anyone of Standing. In fact, it is on that basis that I yet again request an immediate dismissal of all charges against him...”
“What do you mean?” the Minister snapped. “Of course charges have been brought by a Person of Standing against Mr Potter and his wife. I, myself, as Minister, and Acting Head of the DMLE have...”
“No, you do not...” Ragnok interrupted firmly. “The Ministry has No Standing on Hogwarts Grounds. Only the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the Staff, the Board of Governors, or the Parents of Students have any Standing in filing charges regarding occurrences at Hogwarts.”
“The Dementors were on Hogwarts Grounds illegally, as they did not have permission of the headmaster to enter school property. Therefore, the Ministry has absolutely no Standing on the matter whatsoever. I move for an immediate vote by the Wizengamot to determine Warlock Potter’s and his wife’s innocence before this travesty of a proceeding continues any further.”
Minister Dolores Umbridge was fuming now, her cheeks beginning to take on purplish hue. The Goblin was absolutely correct, and she knew it... That was one of the key reasons - besides going after Mr Potter - why she had instigated the Triwizard Tournament - to get a foot in the door at Hogwarts. But she wasn’t about to let up.
“A mere technicality! Ministry Property was destroyed on Hogwarts Grounds. Someone must be punished. Mr Potter is the only...”
“Move to Disregard and Strike Testimony! You are Testifying without any Supporting Evidence and in Contravention of Jurisdictional Code. And because the Court continues to make a mockery of established jurisprudence, as Solicitor Advocate of Gringotts - sovereign ground of the Goblin Nation - I, Ragnok, assert Privilege, as Established by Treaty, to call for an Immediate Vote and be done with this part of the proceeding.”
The Wizengamot broke into a buzz of gasps and hushed conversation. The Goblin did indeed have the Privilege he had invoked, but it hadn’t been used in over 70 years. The Minister gaped and Percy slumped in his seat with a groan. Warlock Greengrass stood up resolutely to get things moving.
“I vote for Dismissal of the Charge regarding the destruction of 416 Dementors, and call for a Show of Hand in Favour of the Defendants,” Warlock Greengrass said loudly, with a nod in Harry’s direction.
The Wizengamot fell silent, and one by one, hands went up. When the raised hands were counted, it was clear that a slight majority were in Harry’s favour. The Minister narrowed her eyes and mentally noted with disapproval the seven Wizengamot ‘wobblies’ who had voted against her.
“Very well,” Minister Umbridge sneered, “the charges of the destruction of 416 Dementors are dismissed. Now as to the other charges against Mr and Mrs Potter...”
“I move for the immediate dismissal on the grounds that there is no basis for bringing charges of violating the International Statute of Secrecy against Warlock Potter and Madam Potter - given that the court has been unable to prove that they cast the spell - if it was such - which destroyed the Dementors,” Ragnok interrupted again, pressing his advantage.
“I invoke Privilege once more, to reverse all further charges against my clients.”
Warlock Greengrass made to rise, but one of the witches who had previously voted with the Minister - against Harry and Hermione - beat him to it.
“As the court has been unable to make its case, I vote to dismiss all further charges against the Potters,” the witch stated firmly as she rose from her seat. “It is only logical - the Law must be followed.”
The Minister noted that the same 'wobblies' voted against her, and in favour of the Potters yet again... and that several other witches and wizards who had supported her charge of destroying the Dementors against Harry and Hermione Potter had also voted to dismiss the rest of charges, apparently swayed by the previous majority vote.
Minister Umbridge angrily banged her gavel.
“Very well, the Wizengamot has spoken!” Dolores snapped. “All charges are dismissed. You are free to go, Mr and Mrs Potter.”
Hermione’s jaw dropped; Harry let out a huge sigh of relief, and roughly half of the Wizengamot broke into loud cheers and the other half into clamourous hisses, boos, and grumbles.
“We won... I can’t believe it... WE WON, Harry!” Hermione squealed giddily, jumping up and down with glee. Harry grinned at Hermione and she flung her arms around him, giving him a big kiss.
Elation and Anxiety simultaneously filled Harry. Warlock Greengrass was beckoning him. Harry glanced at Ragnok who nodded his approval to speak. Hermione kissed him again. Harry took a deep breath, steeling his nerves; he turned back towards the Wizengamot and bellowed over the uproar and commotion which had erupted in the chambers.
“I, HARRY JAMES POTTER, AS RIGHTFUL WARLOCK OF THE HOUSE OF POTTER, HEREBY CLAIM MY SEAT ON THE WIZENGAMOT!”
A number of wizards and witches shook the Potters’ hands as they made their way up into the Wizengamot stands. Harry’s stomach clenched anxiously at being surrounded by so many people in close quarters, but he couldn’t help grinning at the thrilling sensation of inclusion. Hermione felt similarly afflicted and held on tightly to Harry so as not to be swept away by the crowd.
A cacophony of adulation met their ears.
“Good show Mr Potter...”
“Splendid to finally meet you Sir...”
“Good on you for getting Ragnok. He really stuck it to the old Hag...”
Finally they reached Mr Greengrass.
“Well done Warlock Potter, Madam Potter,” said Warlock Greengrass, clasping Harry’s hand and then Hermione’s, giving them both a wink and an amused smirk.
“Thank you Sir... for everything,” Harry grinned. “That was brilliant! But please, call me Harry...”
Mr Greengrass peered at Harry with a bemused expression. “Are you ready to call me Cyril yet?”
“Er...” said Harry uncertainly.
“I’m sorry Harry,” said Cyril, “I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I’d be happy to call you Harry if you prefer.”
“Thank you Mr Greengrass. I’m sure I’ll be able to manage it eventually. It just feels weird to me. So... er... what do I do now that I’m a Warlock?”
“Nothing more for the moment Harry. You’ve done exactly what you needed to do. You will be called upon the next time the entire Wizengamot is called into session, but that generally isn’t very often - and you can appoint a proxy if you are unable to attend. For now, your Declaration of Intent is enough to give some of those in the middle pause before siding with the Minister.
“What you really ought to be doing now is enjoying the rest of your summer holiday,” Cyril Greengrass concluded with a kindly smile.
Dora managed to hold herself together until she reached the departure checkpoint for visitors. She gave Harry and Hermione a wink, then she unclasped her Auror badge and chucked it at the startled Security Wizard, bouncing it off his forehead.
“Oi... What’s all this then?”
“My resignation!” Dora grinned.
Once outside, Dora pounced on both Potters, sweeping them into a group hug.
“You’re free.... I’m free!” Dora squealed. “I say we all go celebrate - we’re to meet Fleur in Trafalgar Square...”
It was a short walk from Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. Fleur beamed radiantly when she saw the three of them. She dropped the several bags of shopping and swept the lot of them into another group embrace.
“I knew eet! I knew you would get off... zey ’ave nothing on you!”
And before Harry or Hermione realised what was happening, after kissing Dora, Fleur plastered their lips with big kisses as she had after the Second Task. The Potters both blushed furiously. Dora grinned at their red faces, and not to be outdone by Fleur, she planted kisses on Harry and Hermione as well. They all burst into giggles as pedestrians and pigeons turned to stare.
“Sorry about that,” said Dora giddily. “I couldn’t ‘elp myself. I’m just happy - I didn’t mean anything by it... just a silly bit of fun, really!”
“It’s alright Dora,” said Hermione, still giggling. “Don’t be sorry...”
“And I’m not sorry either...” Harry had a huge grin still affixed to his face. “Hermione and I both agreed that we thought you were aDorable the first day we met.”
The girls all groaned at Harry’s dreadful pun.
“Prat!” Hermione giggled, giving Harry a playful swat and Dora stuck her tongue out at him; Fleur was still tittering.
The four of them walked across the street and toured the National Gallery and the nearby National Portrait Gallery. Harry came to a halt, staring at a portrait that he knew he’d seen somewhere before.
“What is it, Harry?” asked Hermione when Harry continued to frown pensively at the portrait.
“That picture... I’ve seen it somewhere before.” Harry’s eyebrows shot up in surprise when it finally hit him. “That’s it...” he gasped. “I’ve seen it in Dumbledore’s office, and there’s another copy at Number Twelve!”
“‘Oo is zis... zis Phineas Nigellus Black?” Fleur inquired. “Ees per’aps a relative of your godfather, ‘Arry?”
“And mine!” gasped Dora. “ ‘E’s Sirius’s great great grandfather, and my great great great grandfather.”
“But what would a wizard be doing in a muggle art gallery?” asked Harry, utterly flummoxed.
“He must have been someone well known in the muggle world too,” said Hermione. “It’s the only thing which makes sense. Maybe Sirius knows why.”
“Yeah... suppose so,” said Harry. “I’ll have to ask him when I get the chance.”
The foursome puzzled over it for a bit as they traipsed around the streets of London. Eventually they found themselves in the nearby St James’s Park, just a few blocks away from Buckingham Palace, eating fish and chips. They sat on a bench together by one of the ponds from which they could still see the Palace and watch the ducks playing.
“So what’ll you do now Dora?” Harry asked, sprinkling some malt vinegar on a piece of fish.
“Dunno... not sure really. I suppose I could actually take a few post-grad classes at ‘Ogwarts while I think about it,” Dora responded, dipping a chip in some ketchup. She swallowed it then washed it down with a sip of Coke before continuing,
“Anyway, I’ll still be your protection detail for the Order until everything with You-Know-‘oo and the Minister is resolved anyway. So I’ll need to maintain my cover, and bein’ a post-grad student works as good as any I suppose...”
“Isn’t there something you’ve always dreamed of doing?” Hermone asked.
“Er... well... to tell you the truth, before Mad Eye convinced me to become an Auror, I always wanted to be a musician or draw comics - I’m not ‘alf-bad on guitar and keys, and you know me, I love cartoons. But... but Mum and Dad were both pretty opposed - said they weren’t ‘realistic options,’ and that they wouldn’t pay to support me unless I was trainin’ for a ‘real’ job,” Dora sadly concluded.
“You should do it - either one, or both. I’ll support you Dora,” Harry said eagerly. “You’d be a brilliant musician or artist... I just know it!”
“Oh Harry... that's very sweet, really, but I couldn’t possibly....”
“I mean it!” Harry begged earnestly, “Look... I’ve got loads of money since Sirius just gave me a whole vault. But it’s not doing anyone any good just sitting in Gringotts... And you can live with us when we’re not at Hogwarts. Please...”
“Oui, Dora... zat sounds vairy nice,” said Fleur. “To pursue your dreams ees très bien.”
Dora glanced at Hermione for back-up, but Hermione was grinning. She reached out a hand and took Dora’s in her own, squeezing it gently.
“Why not Dora? We’re all family now... Fleur can stay as well if she wants to.”
“Yeah... that’d be brilliant!” said Harry. “There’s plenty of room - or there will be at some point anyway.”
“You sure about this Harry?”
“Absolutely! Why not?”
Dora glanced at Fleur again, feeling torn. She was supposed to be a grown-up, making her own way in the world in a proper profession. But here she was, eating fish and chips in a park with her whole life ahead of her and feeling like a giddy schoolgirl again. Dora slowly nodded and took a deep breath to steady herself.
“Alright then...” Dora relented, “if you both really mean it, I’m in... But only until I can make it on my own. ‘Ow about you, Fleur?”
“Oui! I plan to stay een Britain, anyway - to eemprove my English!”
They all laughed as Fleur bit her lip and grinned. When the four of them had finished eating, Harry banished the rubbish into a bin and they all leaned back against the bench sighing in contentment.
“So what about you Harry?” Dora asked, finally breaking the happy silence, “ ‘Ave you thought anymore about what you want to do after Hogwarts?”
“I’m not sure either Dora,” Harry replied. “Funnily enough, since I’ve been taking Runes, I’ve discovered I really like drawing too.” Harry chuckled slightly at that, before becoming serious again.
“At one point I thought it would be really cool to be an Auror. I still want to stop Dark Wizards from hurting people, but I’m rather off the Ministry at the moment! Even most of the nice ones I’ve met like Madam Bones and Shacklebolt are a bit stodgy and stiff... Except for Abbie Brixton - she seems really sweet.
“And I don’t really care if I get paid to do it - I’ve already got more money than I need. I dunno... do they have Wizard private detectives? I always liked Sherlock Holmes, maybe I could give that a go. But I’m probably more of a sidekick like Watson,” Harry sighed, “I’m not as smart as Sherlock or Hermione...”
“Honestly Harry, don’t be silly, you’re brilliant!” said Hermione as she flushed in embarrassment. “There’s more to being smart than just being brainy and knowing lots of things. Besides, you work very hard and you’re much smarter than you give yourself credit for.
“You’re very determined when you set your mind on something, and you’re brave and compassionate - and you have excellent leadership skills. I think it’s a smashing goal.”
It was Harry’s turn to blush and squirm.
“I’m with Hermione, Harry," said Dora. "I don’t really know of any Private Aurors, but you’d be amazing. And look ‘ow you took charge in the Third Task - you’re a Natural Born Leader. In fact, I might join you - when I’m not on tour or drawing comics.” Dora chortled and peered at Hermione. “So what about you then Hermione?”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed as she thought about everything that she and Harry had been put through, and all of the things which needed fixing in the Wizard World. It had been the very last thing she had ever considered. Hermione had always wanted to be involved in the sciences - muggle or magical.
Hermione was determined that she would someday, but in the meantime there was too much else to be done. Like Harry, she wanted nothing more than to help improve everyone's lives.
“Magical Lawyer!” Hermione stated resolutely.
Jean had been looking forward to this all day, ever since receiving the excited mirror-call from Hermione after the trial on the mirror which Harry had left with her. Harry chortled when Hermione flattened Mum with one of her patented hugs before joining in himself.
Dora beamed giddily as she entered Number Twelve with Fleur. But she blushed when Moody caught her with his appraising eye.
“Had a nice day of it with the Potters and Delacour didja?” Mad Eye grinned, giving Tonks a wink.
Mad Eye shook his head and smirked when Tonks fled the room. It was a shame for the Wizarding World at large how things at the Ministry and the DMLE had worked out, but Alastor hardly had any room to cast aspersions on Tonks’ clear relief at no longer having to be part of it.
Moody sighed, supposing that the Auror Corps had probably lost a chance at having Harry Potter on its team as well.
There had been more hugs with Auntie Joanne for Harry and Hermione. Even Aunt Petunia had tearily given Harry and Hermione a brief hug. Dudley smiled awkwardly at Harry and shook his hand.
“Glad you got out of that Harry,” said Dudley. “I wish you didn’t have to go back to Hogwarts tomorrow.”
“Thanks Dudley.” Harry returned the smile, realising with surprise that for the first time in his life that he would actually miss him a bit too. “Hey, Dudley... er... I’ll send you a letter every now and then. And if we get a chance, maybe we can even pop home for a quick visit with you, alright!?”
Susan cheerfully embraced Hermione and Harry as well, before Madam Bones offered her own more reserved congratulations; Abbie Brixton couldn’t resist giving the Potters and Tonks a hug too. Though Harry and Hermione were worn out after their long day, they watched a bit of TV and had a light supper with everyone else before going to bed. Harry and Hermione both sighed in contentment, arms around one another as they drifted off.
Senior Undersecretary Percy Weasley took a sip from his second cup of tea and glowered as he reviewed the trial transcript and the long-term voting records of the Wizengamot members at the Minister’s request. Minister Umbridge had made a strong point of it that he should draw his own conclusions after she had given him a basic understanding of her views on the matter.
The Minister had been absolutely right. There were far too many who still succumbed to worshiping Dumbledore’s cult of Potter, despite the relative success of Minister Umbridge’s campaign to force Dumbledore out of the Wizengamot and put a dent in Potter’s popularity over the last year or so.
But things had come a long way from fourteen years ago when everyone - including former He-Who-Must-Not-be-Named supporters - had fallen all over themselves to praise Potter for bringing an end to You-Know-Who, and had given Dumbledore carte blanche to preside over the Wizengamot. It was clear that the headmaster had been abusing his position to upend the System which had maintained Order and Security in the Wizard World for hundreds of years.
Percy shook his head in shock when he realised that Headmaster Dumbledore had been trying to undermine the system for many decades - long before he had become Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. Dumbledore had been at it since 1945 in fact, and had been responsible for most of the “reforms” which had come to pass, many of them in the 1960's.
Before taking his internship with the Ministry, Percy had always imagined Dumbledore to be a great wizard, if a bit mad and rather lax. But in those days Percy had lacked a proper understanding of why his own family had always been so mocked and financially insecure until he had started working under Mr Crouch.
Percy could see now that he hadn't really comprehended the actual political currents well enough to put modern wizarding history in Britain into context until being in the thick of it himself. He was becoming more and more convinced that the Minister’s assessment was correct - that the pureblood supremacists had the right of it - and he began to think that the House of Slytherin’s reputation was undeserved.
Senior Undersecretary Weasley couldn’t say that he approved of You-Know-Who’s tactics any more than the Minister herself did, but he was beginning to understand - as she herself had come to understand - why the methods of the self-appointed saviour of pureblood supremacy could be viewed as a necessary evil.
Dumbledore’s “reforms” had broken the System, and the previous weak-kneed and spineless Ministers had allowed him to do so. It had become impossible for a quite some time to fix the problem from the inside.
But now that there was a Minister in power who also understood what was necessary, everything could be set to rights again from within, through the proper chain of authority and command. You-Know-Who could be put down like the narcissistic and unruly maniac he was.
Unfortunately it was clear that Dumbledore’s seeds of discord were still at work in the Ministry and the Wizengamot. Senior Undersecretary Weasley was forced to agree with the Minister’s assessment that a purge of Dumbledore’s and Potter’s supporters was necessary to save the Ministry and the Wizard World.
The Senior Undersecretary felt a knot of pain as he thought about his family, hoping that eventually they would see the error of their ways. Percy really didn't want them to have to face harsh measures, but it was clearer than ever that it had been his father’s support for Dumbledore and Potter which was responsible for the danger that Ginny had faced in her very first year at Hogwarts.
Lucius Malfoy would have hardly deemed it necessary to surreptitiously provide Ginny with a means to unlock the Chamber of Secrets if Hogwarts had a more suitable Headmaster. Percy was still cross that Malfoy had chosen Ginny instead of Fred or George, but now he understood completely why Warlock Malfoy had picked a Weasley for the task.
But they had to start somewhere, and the Minister was correct in that regard as well. It was too soon to move against the most recalcitrant bloc of the Wizengamot. The focus must continue to be on building the strength of the Traditionalist faction and weeding out the undependable.
Percy dipped his quill in some ink and began to write a list of those in the middle who were most unreliable. Once they were dealt with, and examples made, surely the rest of the Wizengamot would start falling into line.
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