In the Wake of the Storm
The angry Shade of the Dark Lord had fled through the bodies of the fallen on the field of battle, and into the Forbidden Forest when his head had been unceremoniously stricken from his body. He sought a creature to inhabit which could bear him until he could find another wizard willing to bring him back.
Temporarily, the Dark Lord possessed a crow, and flew off into the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, transferring from one small animal to another as their bodies failed. Finally he found an adder and he was pleased. A venomous snake was the only animal capable of being possessed by the Dark Lord indefinitely without expiring.
The Dark Lord considered his options. He could find his way to a seaport, and hide on a vessel bound for Europe, and make his way to his old haunts in Albania, biding his time as he developed another plan. But the risks were too great. Dumbledore would be expecting that.
No, the Dark Lord needed to act quickly and find a wizard to possess who would survive the process long enough until he found another to return him to his rightful form. He needed to stay in Britain so that he could seek vengeance in a timely manner. But he couldn’t act near Hogwarts, where Dumbledore might surely find him out.
The Dark Lord needed to be elsewhere; he slithered south and crossed the border into England.
Madam Pomfrey ignored the wounded attackers lying on the front lawn, leaving them to the devices of the Healers who were already arriving from St Mungo’s, and the Aurors who would soon be following.
All weariness from the long night forgotten, Madam Pomfrey bustled around the Hospital Wing tending to the Potters and their friends. She was relieved to no end that they had all survived the tumultuous ordeal that they had faced. Fleur, Daphne, Parvati, Viktor, Ginny, and Dora seemed none the worse for wear, but the rest needed looking after.
“Well, Mr Potter, you shouldn’t be conscious at all,” Madam Pomfrey shook her head in amazement as she passed Harry a foul smelling potion to drink. “That was quite a nasty spell you took. It should have damaged your internal organs far more than it did.”
Harry winced as he sat up in his bed to take the potion. Once the battle was over and Voldemort lay dead, Harry’s adrenaline had diminished; exhaustion and pain had set in.
“It must be these Chinese symbols,” Harry replied as he took a whiff of the potion and wrinkled his nose. “I’m not sure why though - I thought they only protected our internal organs and bones from physical injury.”
Harry peered questioningly at Hermione who was lying in another bed next to his.
“I’m not sure why either Harry,” Hermione responded with a shrug which made her groan in pain. “All I can think is that they must have made our internal organs extremely resilient.”
“Well, be that as it may, your spleen, kidneys, and liver received a nasty shock and you’ll still need to drink that potion Mr Potter,” Madam Pomfrey said in a brisk manner. “Come on then, drink up. I need to look after your wife and the others...”
Harry grimaced, then quickly downed the revolting potion so that Madam Pomfrey could move on to her next patient.
“Urgh, that’s horrid...” he gasped.
“Very good Mr Potter,” Pomfrey’s stern features softened and she smiled at him. “One more of those each evening over the next few days and you’ll be as right as rain. You should feel lucky - you might have been drinking that several times a day for a few weeks. You can have a pain potion and a sleeping draught after I’ve given everyone else a look.”
Harry nodded and took a sip of water to rinse the vile taste from his mouth while Madam Pomfrey examined Hermione who had come up black and blue over nearly every inch of her body.
“Well dear,” said Pomfrey after a moment, “except for some nasty bruising and a few hairline fractures, you seem all in order. Which is incredible after that fall - six floors, my word!”
Hermione peered gratefully and proudly at her husband, “Thanks to Harry and his excellent calligraphy skills...”
“Do Miss Watts and Miss Lovegood also bear these remarkable runes dear?” asked Madam Pomfrey.
“Yeah,” Harry replied, blushing slightly at Hermione’s praise. “I painted them on all of us a few days ago.”
“Then I daresay that you saved everyone’s lives including your own, Mr Potter,” Pomfrey concluded with a very pleased expression. “Misses Watts and Lovegood should be no worse off than Mrs Potter here.”
And with that, Madam Pomfrey waved her wand over Hermione and murmured an incantation which Harry recognised as the one which Gilderoy Lockhart had attempted to use on Harry’s arm in Second Year, much to Harry’s detriment.
Madam Pomfrey’s spell was far more effective of course. Then she passed Hermione a potion for the bruising. Hermione sniffed the potion apprehensively.
“Oh, thank goodness! It doesn’t smell as awful as yours Harry!” said Hermione before she caught herself. “Oops... Sorry Harry!” She glanced apologetically at Harry only to find him grinning at her.
“It’s alright Hermione,” said Harry. “I would much rather be drinking this potion myself than have to watch you suffering through it.”
“Right then...” said Madam Pomfrey brusquely, “Now that’s sorted I’ll be back with the pain potions and sleeping draughts in a moment when I’ve finished. You two can share a bed now if you’d like.”
Parvati and Daphne came over to tuck Hermione in with Harry when Madam Pomfrey moved on to Jennifer. Dora and Fleur were sitting between the Potters’ and Jennifer’s bed. Once she had finished with Jennifer, Madam Pomfrey took care of Luna, who was being cuddled by Ginny.
Finally, Madam Pomfrey gave Neville a soothing potion which immediately eased any lingering inflammation of his nerves caused by the Cruciatus Curse. Then she went to find pain potions and sleeping draughts for everyone.
“Well, that ought to do it for you Longbottom,” Madam Pomfrey said when she returned, “You’re fit to leave now. Though I suggest plenty of rest for you as well... You too Miss Weasley - you look exhausted.”
“Here’s a vial of sleeping draught for each of you. I suggest you both take it as soon as possible - though you may eat first if you’re hungry.”
“Thank you Madam Pomfrey,” said Ginny happily. “Can we visit the others later.”
“Perhaps this evening dear, after all of you have had a good long nap,” Madam Pomfrey assured her with a smile. “Now run along while I finish up with the others.”
“Thanks Madam Pomfrey,” Neville said as he got up. “We’ll come back later then.”
Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape rejoined Hagrid and Sirius at the dungeon entrance. Viktor Krum, McGonagall, and Karkaroff appeared moments later.
“Blimey!” exclaimed Hagrid, “There’s not a ruddy sign o’ the hag anywhere...”
“There must be another secret exit from the castle in the dungeons,” Sirius sighed resignedly. They had been looking for several hours to no avail.
“At least we caught the hooligans who were with her,” sniffed McGonagall. “I have left them with the others being rounded up at the front of the castle.
“Quite!” Dumbledore nodded and sighed too. “Well, there is little else we can do for the moment. We have Bellatrix’s wand and she is injured - and from what young Mr Longbottom told me, we can be certain that she will not be up to any mischief anytime soon. Apparently, he used a cutting curse which is well known to you Severus.”
Snape raised an eyebrow in surprise.
“Really? That is quite a feat for Longbottom,” Severus looked slightly abashed for a moment, then he swallowed and his dark eyes glittered with satisfaction. “He has come a long way indeed from the little boy who was once terrified of his own shadow...”
“Regardless,” Sirius interjected. “We cannot count Bellatrix out. She will bide her time until she heals and finds a new wand. But when she does, she will be seeking revenge - and if Bellatrix should make a pact with the Minister...”
Sirius trailed off, and everyone shuffled uncomfortably at the unsavoury thought. The ruminations of the searchers were interrupted by the appearance of Kingsley Shacklebolt at the dungeon entrance.
“Albus, they are here - Scrimgeour and the Aurors just arrived.”
Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour glanced at the carnage littering the front lawn of Hogwarts as he approached the main entrance of the castle. The Aurors who had arrived with him fanned out to examine the scene. The bodies of the dead and injured were scattered everywhere in the muddy grass: Trolls, Giants, Wizards, Werewolves, and what appeared to be vast mounds of scorched bones and skeletal remains.
Scrimgeour spied Dawlish approaching and they peered awkwardly at each other.
“Well this is quite a mess John,” said Scrimgeour after a moment. “What happened here?”
“Perhaps you’d better speak to the headmaster about it Rufus,” Dawlish replied stiffly.
Scrimgeour sighed, “I would like to hear it from you John - can’t you even give me that much? You were my friend once.”
“You know why I left. You should have too...”
“I am loyal to the Ministry,” Scrimgeour snapped.
“What about loyalty to your friends? You remember those don’t you? People that you know you can trust!” Dawlish retorted, growing angry. “Amelia was the best Head of the DMLE the department has ever had and you know it - but you just stood there twiddling your thumbs and let Dolores push her out...”
Scrimgeour didn’t reply; he looked away uncomfortably.
“Why are you still working for that... Toad?” Dawlish continued. “Can you honestly tell me that you trust her?”
Scrimgeour scowled, “I cannot put my feelings before my Duty to the Ministry...”
“Aha! So you do suspect...” said Dawlish.
“What I suspect doesn’t matter,” Scrimgeour replied with a sigh. “There is no evidence... without proof that the Minister is corrupt, it is just rumours and hearsay - Dumbledore’s hearsay I might add!” Scrimgeour scowled again for emphasis.
“You should trust him on this one Rufus - no matter what you think of him personally. Dumbledore is right about Dolores. I’m telling you...” Dawlish peered at Scrimgeour beseechingly. “Just... please, Rufus, you have to open an investigation!”
Scrimgeour stood there silently for several moments, looking pensive. Then he heaved another sigh and spoke again.
“John - I’ll consider it - but I can make no promises. At the moment, I have enough to be getting on with, cleaning up this mess...” Scrimgeour waved his hand at the chaotic tableau and stalked off, up to the castle to find Dumbledore.
Rufus Scrimgeour regarded the Headmaster coldly, who was returning the Head Auror’s gaze with an inscrutable look.
“Voldemort is dead,” Dumbledore said quietly. “And hopefully, this time he will remain dead.”
Scrimgeour raised his eyebrows. “Well that is something I suppose,” he said stiffly. “Do you have proof?”
“His body lies on the lawn with the rest of the dead,” Dumbledore responded, “Voldemort’s severed head was retrieved from the lake and lies with it.”
The headmaster quieted and regarded the Auror Chief silently for a moment. Dumbledore decided that it would be wisest to leave Harry Potter’s role in the events out of it for the time-being, at least until he was certain where Scrimgeour stood. The headmaster was surprised to see a hint of satisfaction and relief on Scrimgeour’s visage.
“Good,” Scrimgeour nodded, “Very good indeed! And you’re sure that he’ll stay that way then?”
“Yes,” replied Dumbledore, “At least reasonably so. I shall be able to give you a definitive answer to that question within the next few days...”
“You may also like to know that a number of Death Eaters and numerous other escapees from Azkaban have also met their demise,” Dumbledore continued, “including Rodolphus Lestrange - though Bellatrix Lestrange unfortunately remains at large. I am uncertain as to the disposition of Rowle and Dolohov, but MacNair is dead, and Crabbe and Goyle are in our custody...”
“Really?” gasped Scrimgeour, his eyes widening, “That is good news then. Colour me impressed Dumbledore. Very well then, I shall do my utmost to ensure that you are given a fair hearing at the Ministry. This is far better than I had imagined...”
Scrimgeour began to feel more and more pleased. This was beginning to look less like a disaster and more like an occasion to be celebrated. Dumbledore saw the gleam in Scrimgeour’s eyes and decided to press his advantage.
“Scrimgeour - Rufus, I beg of you...”
“You wish me to investigate the Minister,” Rufus Scrimgeour swallowed and looked disturbed. “I know. John pressed me on the matter - I don’t know what to say. My hands are tied - I have nothing to work with...”
“So you would be willing then if you did?”
Rufus thought for a moment, then he nodded curtly, “Yes, but I shall need somewhere to begin... Albus.”
Dumbledore’s eyes sparkled, “Excellent Rufus! Then perhaps it is time that you met a former colleague of the Minister’s who is currently under my protection. Though she cannot provide you with a smoking gun, Ms Rita Skeeter can provide you with detailed knowledge about the Minister which should set you on the right path.”
Head Auror Rufus Scrimgeour thanked Rita Skeeter and frowned as she departed the Headmaster’s Office. It was worse than he could have imagined. He had long suspected that the Minister had at one time been a staffer in the Department of Mysteries, but to learn that Minister Umbridge was actually the current Head of that Department - and that she had been for some time - was a shock.
That meant that Dolores Umbridge was the head of the two most powerful departments in the Ministry, as well as being Minister. And the Minister now had the Wizengamot in her pocket; she would be able to operate with total impunity. Such a situation was untenable - a political disaster in the making.
“Well, Albus, it would appear that I owe you an apology,” Scrimgeour sighed. “I am confident that you have determined the veracity of Ms Skeeter’s story.”
“Indeed,” Dumbledore nodded. “Once Ms Skeeter understood her situation, she was most forthcoming, and allowed me to take copies of her memories to verify her tale. I just wish she had something more to give us.”
“At least we now have some evidence that the Minister has been manipulating the Daily Prophet’s content,” Scrimgeour responded. “Ms Skeeter has confirmed my private suspicions in that regard. That is a start at least. But I am deeply troubled...” Scrimgeour paused with an abashed look on his face.
“Albus, I feel I must warn you...” the Head Auror continued, “The Minister has directed me to turn over all captives to the Unspeakable Office for ‘further interrogations.’ Who knows how far she might go to advance her agenda?” Rufus eyed the Headmaster pointedly.
“That is grave news indeed,” Dumbledore stroked his long white beard thoughtfully. “However, not unexpected. I am also concerned regarding some other disturbing news - are the reports of Inferi with a contagious curse true?”
“Yes,” sighed Scrimgeour, “There were numerous attacks scattered around Britain last night - clean up operations are ongoing. It is not known how many Inferi have evaded us so far and passed on their curse. We are using everything we have to track their movements and eradicate them. And, needless to say, my Department is currently stretched quite thin...”
It was late afternoon when Harry woke up with Hermione snuggled under his arm. She slowly stirred as well and gazed into his green eyes.
“He’s dead Harry,” Hermione murmured. “Wormtail I mean...” A brief flicker of pain crossed Hermione’s features; Harry peered at her in concern.
“Are you alright Hermione?” asked Harry.
Hermione’s bit her lip apprehensively and she suddenly cast her eyes down.
“I... I’m not sure Harry,” Hermione replied. “I... I killed someone... I w...watched him die, and I knew that I had caused his death - intentionally. A....and, the worst part is that I didn’t feel bad about it at the time. I felt h...happy...” Hermione gasped and tears filled her eyes.
“Harry - I know Wormtail deserved it. B...but I shouldn’t feel happy that someone is dead - should I?” Hermione felt her chest tighten and heaved an anguished sob.
“Ssh Hermione,” said Harry earnestly, “I know you feel bad about it now. But it’s alright - I’m happy that Wormtail is dead too - he had it coming...”
“B....but I’m the one that did it,” Hermione sobbed again. “Doesn’t that make me evil, to... to kill someone... and... and be happy about it?”
Harry was about to respond with a vehement “no,” that feeling bad about it now proved she wasn’t evil, but someone else replied first.
“If it does, then I’d ‘ave to count myself as evil too then,” Dora had woken, after having fallen asleep in the chair beside the Potters’ bed.
Dora had heard the whole conversation. Unease had grown as she listened; the truth was that Dora was feeling as guilty as Hermione, but suddenly a feeling of conviction had surged, and she knew just what to say.
“If you were really evil, you wouldn’t even be questioning it now, Hermione. Look - you did what you ‘ad to do. If you hadn’t, ‘e woulda killed you and Jennifer - you did the right thing to protect yourselves! But beyond that, you finished someone ‘oo really deserved it. And it was personal Hermione... Wormtail made it personal - just like that piece of shite Lock’art and that vermin Greyback did!
“Their evil touched so many lives,” Dora continued. “They’re responsible for so much torment and death. There’s absolutely nothin’ wrong with bein’ ‘appy that those bastards are all dead - alright!”
“I couldn’t agree more,” said Jennifer firmly, having just woken up to hear Dora responding to Hermione. “I’m thrilled that Wormtail will never be able to hurt anyone ever again.”
“See Hermione,” Harry said quietly. “We all feel the same way. You’re not evil, nor is Dora! You ended Evil - both of you did. It’s alright for you both to feel pleased that Wormtail and Lockhart are dead. I couldn't be happier knowing that they’re gone - and soon Voldemort will be finished for good too...”
Hermione peered at Dora and Jennifer gratefully, then returned her husband’s gaze, feeling much better.
“Thank you Harry,” she said quietly.
“No... Thank you Hermione! Thanks for ending Wormtail!” Harry’s own eyes had grown watery, and his breath caught as his heart lurched. “And th...thanks for staying alive. I couldn’t bear to be without you Hermione...”
“I love you too Harry,” Hermione softly returned, drawing Harry closer and kissing him deeply.
Severus Snape took a seat across from the headmaster, wondering why he had been called to Dumbledore’s office after Dumbledore’s meeting with Scrimgeour. What could be so important that Dumbledore needed to see him in private? Dumbledore and Snape looked at one another for a moment before the headmaster broke the silence.
“I have a task for you Severus... It is a task which I believe you are best suited to complete. Soon we will have the last horcrux in hand and I wish to find a means of ridding Harry of Voldemort’s soul-fragment once and for all. Only then will Voldemort truly be finished...”
“Why me?” asked Snape. “Surely Filius’s skill set or Poppy’s are more suited for Harry’s needs.”
“Because I believe that Harry’s best chance to achieve this goal lies within himself...”
“Wouldn’t that make your talent the most appropriate then?” Snape raised one eyebrow.
“Certainly Legilimency could give me some insight which might be of use to Harry, but as a Legilimens yourself, you know as well as I do that there is little that either you or I can do to give Harry the tools he needs. He must go deep within himself - to travel beyond even the world of dreams - to reach the inner-most reality which lies only in his soul.
“For Harry to accomplish that will require something that no ordinary magic can provide - it will require something powerful enough to lay his soul bare that he may touch the face of the ineffable - whilst yet leaving him conscious enough to assert his Will and Intent on his inner-quest.
“It is true that there are methods which might accomplish this known to both wizards and muggles alike in the Orient... but those methods require years - perhaps even decades - to learn. Neither Harry or we have the luxury to wait that long to finish Voldemort.”
Snape’s nostrils flared in sudden understanding.
“Perhaps Liberty Caps then,” Snape suggested. “I have some in my storeroom.”
“I think Harry will need something far more potent than the mushrooms available to us in Britain.” Dumbledore reached into his desk drawer and retrieved a book. “This recently came into my possession. If its claims are true, I believe it holds some answers...”
“I have not heard of this wizard... McKenna,” said Snape, dubiously glancing at the cover. Snape’s eyebrows popped up in surprise when he flicked through first pages inside the book cover. “The preliminary page indicates that this is a recent muggle publication.”
“Quite so,” said the headmaster, his eyes twinkling. “It is indeed a remarkable true story about a man’s journey into the deepest Amazon, where he encounters a tribe of indigenous peoples - most of them clearly non-magical, yet well aware of the magical properties of certain mushrooms and other magical plants.
No doubt the wizards in their small societies are openly incorporated into their communities without any regard for strictures such as the International Statute of Secrecy - most likely due to the fact that they by and large remain isolated from the larger world. In any case, those who live in these small communities produce a potion based upon the Caapi vine and the Viridis leaf...”
“Caapi vine and Viridis leaf?” If Snape was surprised before, he was even more so now. “Those items are... quite rare - and unobtainable in Britain. I would have to travel...”
“To the Amazon... Yes!” Dumbledore nodded in agreement. “I wish you to acquire some - enough to brew the potion. You will need to study the recipe and be able to replicate it - though I expect it will require some adjustments to stabilise the experience... And I would trust none other but you, Severus, to do so.”
Everyone was pleased when the Potters, Luna, and Jennifer were finally released from the Hospital Wing the following morning. Harry was famished and dug into his scrambled eggs and sausage voraciously. He stiffened when he saw Theodore Nott enter the Great Hall and nearly choked on his piece of sausage. Harry finished chewing and swallowed carefully, washing it down with some tea.
“What’s he doing here?” Harry growled.
“Theodore saved my life Harry,” Luna replied. “He’s very sorry for what he did now...”
“It’s true Harry,” interjected Parvati, who still looked unsettled.
“Nott turned himself in to Dumbledore... promised to go back to prison if he had to,” said Ginny, who was more than a bit skeptical herself. Still, if Luna said it was true that he was sorry, Ginny was willing to take her at her word.
“He what?” Harry gasped. He couldn’t believe it - Nott, of all people, turning over a new leaf.
“And Dumbledore said that promising to go back to prison showed character,” Luna responded. “He’s considering allowing Theodore to come back to Hogwarts instead... if we - us - especially Daphne - agree that he should get another chance. Dumbledore’s giving us the final say...”
“Wow... that’s... er... good!?” Harry glanced at Hermione in perplex.
Hermione peered at Nott and took a good long look.
“I think Nott is sincere Harry,” said Hermione after a few moments passed. “He looks really sad and remorseful at the moment.”
Harry looked at Luna who peered back hopefully. He glanced at Ginny who started to shrug; then she sighed and nodded affirmatively.
“Yeah Harry - he deserves another chance,” said Ginny.
Harry next gazed questioningly into Daphne’s eyes. “What about you Daphne? He helped Malfoy...”
“I think Nott should get a second chance Harry,” said Daphne. “He saved Luna’s life - I think he means it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure...” Daphne answered firmly. “Nott could have just made a run for it, but he didn’t. He came back to take responsibility.”
Harry looked around the table at the others. Dora, Jennifer, Neville, and Viktor appeared to be cautiously in agreement.
“Well,” Harry sighed, “If you all think that Nott deserves another shot, then I suppose he should come back to Hogwarts. I'll tell Dumbledore what we’ve decided after breakfast.”
“Very well then,” said the headmaster as he peered proudly over the top of his half-moon spectacles at Harry and Hermione in his office when breakfast was finished, “I shall inform Mr Theodore Nott that he will be reinstated at Hogwarts on a probationary status at the beginning of term.”
“Now,” Dumbledore continued, his eyes gleaming slightly, “I have something else to discuss - finishing Tom Riddle forever. I have the location of the last horcrux...”
“You do?” Harry interrupted with a gasp.
“You found Hufflepuff’s Cup?” said Hermone, equally surprised.
“Indeed I did,” Dumbledore replied with twinkling eyes. “I gleaned it from Voldemort’s mind in his last moments... And I believe Harry’s talents will come in quite handy - as it resides in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts.
“And if I am not mistaken, Harry’s metamorphmagus abilities are advanced enough that he should be able to convincingly take Bellatrix’s place... and his connection to Voldemort should make short work of locating the Cup within the vault in question.”
Harry’s jaw dropped and Hermione was stunned.
“I... I’ve never really seen her,” Harry muttered, “I mean I have, in pictures... but I’d really need a good look at her in person to pull it off properly.”
“Quite so Harry!” Dumbledore nodded. “That is why I have Mr Longbottom’s and Miss Weasley’s memories of their recent encounter with her for you to study in the pensieve at length...”
“What about me?” asked Hermione, looking very worried. “Harry will need me to carry the Cup won’t he? ... because of the pain horcruxes cause him?” Then another troubling thought occurred to her. “Are we stealing it from Gringotts then?”
“One question at a time Mrs Potter,” Dumbledore began, smiling reassuringly. “Actually I was indeed about to recommend that you join Harry, under his invisibility cloak.
“As to the matter of stealing... technically, we will be stealing only from Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. I have spoken with Ragnok, and he has consulted with the Chairman of Gringotts. They have no more desire to see Tom Riddle return than we do - nor do they wish Gringotts to be associated with harbouring a Wizard Artifact of such a Dark Nature.
“I admit, they were reticent at first, not wishing to undo Gringotts’ sterling reputation for protecting the property and the rights of their clients - but they eventually agreed with my request. Though, for the sake of avoiding the appearance of impropriety, they have agreed to allow a member of the Order to enter the Lestrange vault only if disguised as Bellatrix herself.
“We have Bellatrix’s wand which you will need to present. And Bellatrix, being gravely injured and a fugitive, will have gone to ground... She will not be able to complicate things if we move quickly - within the next few days.”
Harry and Hermione exchanged looks in silent communication.
“Right then,” said Harry resolutely, after seeing Hermione’s agreement in her eyes. “Let’s do this sir... When do we go?”
“As soon as you have perfected your disguise Harry,” Dumbledore replied. “You may begin practice tomorrow morning when I take you both inside Mr Longbottom’s and Miss Weasley’s memories to view Bellatrix Lestrange.”
Minister Dolores Umbridge scowled as she sipped a nightcap alone. Voldemort’s sudden demise at Dumbledore’s hands was not entirely unwelcome - but it presented its own set of problems. Dolores had got quite far capitalising on the Wizard World’s fear of the Dark Lord’s mad excesses. He had been convenient as a scapegoat, and had kept the headmaster of Hogwarts too distracted to undermine her administration.
The Minister was also perturbed that Rufus Scrimgeour had insisted upon retaining custody of Crabbe and Goyle, having claimed their usefulness to ongoing investigations of escaped Death Eaters who possibly remained at large.
Dolores sighed and drained the rest of her snifter, plunking it on the table. She could have over-ruled Scrimgeour of course, but it only made sense to give him first crack the Minister supposed. It would not do to allow any Death Eaters still loyal to a martyred Voldemort to continue running loose... unless they swore their fealty to her; and it would keep Scrimgeour happy to think that he still had a position of authority within the DMLE.
Still, the Unspeakable office had Avery and Rabastan, not to mention numerous Snatchers. They would be enough to complete her plans. With their cooperation - willing or not - in telling the story which Dolores wanted told, Hogwarts could be hers in a matter of weeks. And she would have Crabbe and Goyle soon enough in any case.
Then Dolores could finally begin implementing the next phase of her programme and pardon Lucius Malfoy’s son. Adjusting herself to the situation, satisfied that all was progressing as it should be, Dolores poured herself another brandy.
Harry gave Hermione a gentle kiss when they settled down for the night in their own bed. It was well after one am, long past the time that Madam Pomfrey had instructed her patients to take their potions and get a proper night’s sleep.
Harry had reluctantly swallowed his nasty tasting organ-replenishing potion earlier that evening for the third night in a row after Hermione reminded him that he ought to. Then they had both taken sleeping draughts, but Harry and Hermione were still awake, keyed up with anticipation.
“We’ll be able to spend a night or two at home and see Mum again in a couple of days Hermione.”
“I can’t wait Harry,” Hermione beamed. “I know we still have the Minister to deal with. But we’re finally going to be completely free of that horrid Tom Riddle - well, at least we will after we finish off the bit of his soul attached to yours Harry. You won’t have to stay in the same home as your Aunt when Voldemort is completely gone...”
“Oh... yeah!” Harry nodded. He had forgotten about that. “Well, Aunt Petunia and Dudley are probably still safer being where the Minister can’t find them - but I bet they’re both going stir-crazy shut up in that house. Maybe I should send them on holiday somewhere safe... out of the country for a bit.”
“That’s a very sweet idea Harry,” Hermione agreed, burrowing into Harry’s shoulder as he stroked her tawny curls. “Maybe we could send Mum and Auntie Joanne somewhere abroad too? They might like a change of scenery. Then they wouldn’t need Abbie Brixton to look after them either...”
“Brilliant... We could have the whole house to ourselves Hermione!” said Harry excitedly. “Madam Bones and Susan won’t have to worry about Voldemort anymore either - it should be safe enough for them to go back to their own homes. Dora and Fleur will have room to stay, and we’ll be able to invite the others to visit if they want to...”
“Mmmhmm,” Hermione responded sleepily.
Harry and Hermione drifted off in each other’s arms as the sleeping draughts finally kicked in, both dreaming happily of being at home.
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