Two dozen children, aged five to ten huddled around Pansy and Millicent. They had been herded into the great room by a dozen battle hardened aurors. None of the DMLE officers had been abusive, but they were an intimidating sight. The sprogs were terrified.
Umbridge was in her element. Absolutely convinced that she was in the right. She knew that some of these urchins were the sons and daughters of death eaters. They would be leverage in gathering the pure-blood faithful back to the ministry. Those bothersome death-eater charges would be dropped as each former follower of the dark lord would plead the "I was imperioused" defense.
It had worked for her twice now.
One female auror moved behind Millicent.
The lady DMLE agent whispered"Invoke /prosapia per diligo/."
The large girl glanced at the auror and smiled. It was Maggie Webber.
Pansy stood between the toad-like woman and her children by choice.
"Stand aside you silly girl. Pureblood or not I will have you arrested if you interfere."
"You will not take them, I claim prosapia per diligo."
Umbridge looked annoyed, "You can't, you have no visible means of support and you do not have clear title to this house or land. Now move aside or I shall have you removed."
"Beg pardon Miz Umbridge, the head of this house and the defacto head of the Parkinson family has declared these children to be her family. We will need a Wizengamot Mugwump to override her authority in this case."
"I'm sure we can overlook astrict interpretation of the law for the sake of the children, of course!" Dolores said in her sweetest voice.
"I will be requisitioning apensive as soon as we return to headquarters, Miz Umbradge. I'm sure the current Supreme Mugwump will want to see evidence of your blatant disregard for the law."
Umbridge backpedaled quickly,"No, oh no Auror, I'm sure you misunderstood me. I only seek to ensure the safety and well being of the children. I love children."
James Evans spoke for the first time, "When did you change your mind about children?"
Umbridge took umbrage at the unwanted interruption.
"I have always loved children!"
"Funny, I recall, two years ago, you admitting that you've always hated children."
"I've never said any such thing!"
"Care to make a mage's oath to that effect, Miz Umbridge?"
"I - I - I can't be expected to remember everything I've ever said."
"Oh I remember it very well. There were only the three of us in the forbidden forest, remember?"
With that "James" lifted the blond fringe from his forehead to reveal the famous lightning bolt scar.
Dolores Umbridge paled.
"I, um, that is to say /we/will return to the ministry and ensure the proper protocols are in place for, um, serving the best interests of the children."
"I'll be going too, I'm sure Minister Shacklebolt will be interested in this incident. And he /did/tell me to drop in anytime."
Dolores Jane Umbridge was seething. When she had been undersecretary to the Minister of Magic she'd had unlimited access to the Minister at all times. Now she had to sit in the outer office awaiting Minister Shacklebolt's convenience like some minor functionary.
"Damnation!" She said in a pique borne of frustration. The minister's appointment secretary, a muggleborn witch, clandestinely placed "the toad's" name at the end of a long list. Then she looked up and her smile brightened - this day was just getting better and better.
"Please Lena, call me Harry."
Harry was very fond of the Greek born Lena Polyxena, a svelte blonde whose naturally curly hair framed a pretty face that smiled easily - in spite of the fact that she'd had a rough life and had been treated very badly by the Voldemort administration. Her soon to be ex-husband, a healer at St. Mungo's, never raised a finger to help her as she was carted off to stand the mockery of a trial under the very same woman who sat impatiently in her waiting room.
"I'm sorry Harry, but as you are here to see the Minister in an official capacity I have to follow protocol."
Harry pulled a small white bag from the pocket of his robe, opened the bag and spilled two small wrapped sweets on the small table near the wall.
"If you have a cough have one of these, George Weasley swears by them."
"No, thank you, Mister Potter. Ijust wish to remind the Minister's appointment secretary that I have been waiting here for a very long time."
"As you say, Miz Umbridge, but Harry, um, Mr. Potter has an appointment, whereas you do not."
Lena didn't have to mention that Harry had instant access to the Minister at any time for any reason.
"I'm sure Mister Potter wouldn't mind letting me see the Minister in his stead."
"Oh, but I do, Dolores. It would be very awkward to have you in the room as I'll be lodging a formal complaint against you. I'm sure Kingsley will want to see you as soon as our meeting is concluded."
"Go right in Mister Potter." Lena said with obvious delight.
"Oh, and Dolores?"
The "Toad in a Cardie" glared up at him.
"I'd consider cleaning out your desk if I were you."
The squat woman sat bonelessly on the uncomfortable chair and considered her options. Almost by reflex she unwrapped one of the taffies and popped it into her mouth.
Kingsley Shacklebolt rose from behind the desk to give Harry a firm handshake and an equally firm hug. Both men looked at his outer office door when they heard the shriek, followed by unintelligible sounds that may or may have not been violent curses.
Kingsley grinned, "What did you do Harry?"
Harry feigned righteous indignation, "Me, Minister? Why nothing. But I think Miz Umbridge might have eaten a ton-tongue toffee or two."
"Do you know the counter curse?" The minister asked.
"Of course, as do you."
"Still, perhaps it would be better if she were attended by professional healers. . ."
He stuck his head out the door and was treated to the sight of Umbridge nearly choking on what looked like ametre-long slug.
"Miss Polyxena, please use the emergency portkey to send Miz Ubridge to St. Mungo's. There's a good lass."
As soon as the portkey activated Lena, Kingsley, and Harry nearly fell over laughing.
"Thanks for the head's up there Harry."
"I figured you would know not to eat any sweet that had the name "Weasley" on the wrapper."
"Lena, would you ring up some tea?"
"Right away boss."
When the elf arrived with the service Lena offered to pour.
"All right, Harry, what is this about? I refuse to believe that Umbridge has stationed herself outside my door for no reason."
Lena picked up her cup and exited the office.
"First you have to help me understand why that woman isn't in Azkaban."
"Ah, yes." The man looked uncomfortable in his skin. "You have to understand, Harry, we're severely understaffed here at the ministry. So many of the previous administration's key people were either active death eaters or were imperioused.
"We have had to retain many of the civil servants that ran the Ministry who were known collaborators because we simply do not have adequate replacements.
"I don't like it one bit, but the same thing happened at the end of the war with Grindlewald, in both the magical and muggle governments. Many of the German civil servants had been in Nazi uniforms just weeks before their appointments under the allied sponsored reconstruction government."
"Imperioused or not, that woman is evil. Surely you know that."
"I'll make you a deal, Harry, you find me someone who can run her department as efficiently. Then give me evidence of a crime, something that can't be attributed to being under the imperious curse and I'll see to it that she's sacked."
Harry extended his left hand, the white scars spelling out "I must not tell lies."
"Did she ever claim to be under the curse when she tortured students at Hogwarts? I also have witnesses who will testify that she was interrupted in the act of casting the cruciatus on me."
"Get me the pensive memories from yourself and one other reliable witness." He tapped the scar on the back of Harry's hand. "This is good for five years, minimum."
"If you're looking for a good department head for Magical Children's Services I'd suggest Percy Weasley, he's a lot more fun these days than he used to be, I think he's trying to make up for the loss of his brother, Fred. If he's not interested I'd suggest anyone with a history of management, hell, Lena would be a good choice, but where would you find another appointment secretary that would put up with you?"
From the outer office they heard Lena shout, "If that's an offer then I'll take it!"
Dolores Umbridge was /not/having a good day. What should have been a simple process of rounding up a few stray children became a nightmare as that stupid Parkinson girl chose to interfere. Then she was left to stew in the Minister's outer office while aparade of menials seemed to have easy access to Kingsley Shacklebolt. Then Harry Potter intimidated that she was about to lose her job and her pension, then had poisoned her!
An intern healer had taken pity on her and had removed the tongue-engorging curse. He left the small treatment room to go in search of a potion when she heard someone say they were looking to place her, Dolores Umbridge, under arrest!
She panicked and reverted to her animagus form, a toad - no surprise there. She hopped, then crawled under alow table and froze, barely breathing.
"She was just here!" The young intern told the two aurors just outside the treatment room.
"She won't have gone far." one of the DMLE officers, a female, said, "She can't apparate out of here. We'll find her."
A toad can remain still for days if need be, she would just wait them out.
Minerva McGonagall read the letter from Sister Bellanca.
I apologize for not writing sooner, I have been devoting all of my time to rehabilitating a patient infected with the Lycan virus and didn't want to expose anyone at Hogwarts to the infection.
I was performing my daily ablutions in the spring near the edge of the forest when my patient, in his full wolf form, happened upon my habit. The Goddess protected me. As you may know Lycans suffer from hydrophobia. I was able to wait out the dawn in the safety of the pool. The water was cool, but I had my wand and warming charms are very easy for me.
All is well; I hope that my service eased your burden for a time. I know the Goddess placed me in the forest so that I could help my newest patient.
Brightest Blessings and Merry Partings
"Well that's a load off my mind,"Minerva thought, "I must tell Hagrid. He'll be relieved as well."
She cast about looking for parchment and quill.
Remus felt better than he had in years. The last two transformations had been virtually painless. Bellanca had used her vampiric power to ease him into and out of his wolf form. He finally understood the reason that werewolves sought out vampires and he knew he would be eternally in his lady's debt for the comfort she had given him. The fact that she didn't enthrall him outright made him feel even more indebted to her, if that were possible.
For her part Bella had become very fond of Remus. He had a great heart but there was a hole in it that could only be filled by his dear departed wife and orphaned son. She'd had to excuse herself every three evenings or so in order to feed. She'd been in contact with Eliza, who had been thrilled that her descendant had found herself a nice werewolf companion, citing her vast experience with werewolf partners and their insatiable sex drives just before the full moon. Bella didn't bother correcting her. She knew Eliza would direct her to Hogsmeade's nearest sanguinaria.
Her ancestress didn't disappoint. There was an inn, "Molly Malone's," on the outskirts of town that catered to vampires, often using the rooms for resting vampires during the day and resting wizards at night - doubling their profits in the process.
Bella was returning from Molly Malone's when she recognized Carraticus Crabbe's old Hogsmeade manor house. She'd remembered many nights in that old coot's rooms utterly debauched. It looked different now.
It looked bright and clean and respectable.
There were children feeding chickens in the predawn light.
"Hello." She called out to asmall girl who was spreading chicken feed in the yard.
"Hello, Miss." The tiny girl answered politely.
"Do you live here?" Bella asked.
"Yes, Miss. With my brothers and sisters and Mummys"
"Mummies?" Bella wondered how multiple Egyptian corpses had found their way to Hogsmeade.
"Yes, Miss. Mummy Pansy and Mummy Millie."
"Not yet, Miss."
"Bella, please call me Bella; and you are?"
"Beg pardon Miss Bella, I'm Kayla."
"How many brothers and sisters do you have?"
Kayla looked thoughtful for amoment before she said "lots."
"Who takes care of you if there are so many?"
"We do." The little girl said in a "matter of fact" tone, "We're all family. That's what families do."
Bella laughed delightedly. "Yes, little Kayla, that's exactly what families do."
Some of my reviewers, bless you BTW, have written that they liked the character of Sister Bellanca. Having Brother David in the mix should make for some interesting evenings.
The concept of a sanguinaria is my own. What else would you call an establishment where the menus read Type A, B, or O. "You should try my recipe for a Bloody Mary, one part vodka, two parts AB negative. . ."
Last, I'm spending a lot of time in my new job while trying to finish one military science fiction novel as well as a science fiction fantasy work.
I always finish what I start, updates, however, will be protracted due to my new schedule.
As always thank you to my faithful reviewers, you keep me going!
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