Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Second Fiddle

Meeting of Minds

by Crucio_Crusade 3 reviews

Harry Potter is aware of the wizarding world. The only problem is he grew up apart from it. When he explored the magical world, he found dangers, wonders, and friendship.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Humor - Characters: Harry,Hermione,Neville,Voldemort - Warnings: [!] [V] [?] - Published: 2007-11-11 - Updated: 2007-11-12 - 6615 words

Disclaimer: This fan fiction was based on the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. I do not claim ownership on any character created by J.K. Rowling, and no money is collected from this story. This is one way I show appreciation to J.K. Rowling’s works. Other names or places on this story are fictional. Any similarity to actual name is purely coincidental.

Chapter 30: Meeting of Minds

“This is a bloody disaster!” Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister for Magic, exclaimed vehemently. For the last few minutes, he was busy pacing around the headmaster’s office, and slowly working himself into hysteric. “Why wasn’t I informed last night? Am I, or am I not the minister? I have to cancel my full schedule today, just to listen to this fiasco.” Thinking back, Dumbledore assured him the plan would work. Instead, the whole foolproof plan blew up in their collective faces. One thing for sure, he wouldn’t take the blame for this failure. After all, it was all Dumbledore’s idea. “This is a bloody disaster!” he exclaimed yet again.

Professor Minerva McGonagall, acting temporary headmistress, sighed heavily. She accepted the posting because she felt the headmaster would expect it. “Minister, you’re in Hogwarts, not Hog’s Head. There is no need for profanity. And, would you please calm down? I don’t want you to have a heart attack. I have enough headaches as it is,” she admonished from behind Dumbledore’s desk.

The minister heatedly rounded on her. “Headaches? It is nothing compare to mine!” Scrimgeour wildly gestured with his hands as he emphasized his concerns. “Dumbledore brought down by an unknown spell! Longbottom captured by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named! Not only that, Snape has somehow managed to escape!” Here, Scrimgeour threw McGonagall an unbelievable look, before continuing on his rant. “If The Daily Prophet learns about this, it will surely be front page. There will be mass panic. There is no one to stop him now.” The minister paused for a moment to catch his breath, until something dawned on him. “By Merlin’s beard, my career will be in ruin!” Scrimgeour’s sudden realization of his predicament made him sought a chair in dismay.

“Minister… Minister! Get a hold of yourself!” Professor McGonagall’s stern voice momentarily halted Scrimgeour’s bout of panic. “Dumbledore may be incapacitated. And, Longbottom may be… dead. But, that doesn’t mean our fight against You-Know-Who is hopeless.” The Transfiguration professor scolded the minister like one of her students. “You are the Minister for Magic. You have the whole Ministry resources at your disposal to stop You-Know-Who. If you follow the plan…”

“Professor McGonagall! Professor McGonagall!” The frantic voice of Madam Pomfrey cut whatever the Transfiguration teacher was going to say.

The temporary headmistress immediately went in front of the fireplace and knelt down. Scrimgeour stood curiously behind her, his personal fear momentarily forgotten. “What is it, Poppy?” Professor McGonagall asked with a note of apprehension in her voice.

“I have received a message by Auror Tonks’ patronus. She, Neville, and Madam Bones are on their way here. They’re just outside the wards of Hogwarts,” Madam Pomfrey reported with restraint excitement.

“They have escaped?” Professor McGonagall asked disbelievingly. Her eyes began to moisten with tears of happiness and relief. “Thank you for telling me Poppy. Would you tell whoever the aurors or Order members present there to meet me on the school ground? We have to look for them.” She stood up lightly. “Minister, would you care to join me?”

“Of course, I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Scrimgeour replied cheerfully. He was more than relieved the situation wasn’t as dire as it appeared. Longbottom still lived. They still had a champion who would defeat the Dark Lord. Who knew, now that Dumbledore was out of the way, perhaps, Longbottom could be persuaded to support the Ministry. He secretly smiled as he gladly followed the headmistress to meet their missing compatriots.

Severus Snape slowly regained consciousness. The first thing he saw was a blinding light. He immediately closed his eyes to avoid hurting them. He slightly turned his head, and tried again. As far as he could tell, he was in an unfamiliar room. He couldn’t see much because of the brilliant light directed to his face. When he tried to stand, he found out he couldn’t. He was tied to a chair. His body, arms, and legs were bound by ropes. They looked old and worn. So, he forcibly pulled his right arm to break free. From the pain he felt, he realized the rope was a lot stronger than they looked. Nevertheless, he tested the other bindings, with no success.

“Are you done?” a male voice gruffly asked from his right.

“Who is there? Show yourself!” Snape angrily demanded. He was sure this was one of Potter’s tricks to make him talk.

A figure came out of the gloom. His progress indicated by the soft thumping sounds on the floor. He stopped just behind the light. “I want information,” the man said almost in a growling voice. “And, you will give it to me…one way or the other.”

“Who are you trying to scare, Moody?” Snape asked haughtily. “There is no use hiding your face. I know it’s you.”

The shadowed figure moved closer, exposing his scarred face to the light. It was Mad Eye Moody. There was a predatory smile on his lips. “Do you remember what I said if you betray us?” Snape involuntarily shivered with foreboding in remembrance. He wished the seasoned auror didn’t bother to show his ugly face. “So, which is it going to be, Snape? Do you want to test your resolve, or tell me everything I want to know?” Mad Eye made a show of slowly drawing his wand.

Snape, then, realized the paranoid auror wouldn’t make him drink /Veritaserum/. He would actually torture him. “You would not dare torture me. The Ministry will not allow it,” Snape nervously reminded Mad Eye, his composure beginning to falter.

“Aahh…the Ministry. Did I forget to mention they don’t know anything about this interrogation? In fact, nobody knows you’re here at all,” Mad Eye informed him almost conversationally. “It’s the ugly side of the Ministry nobody likes to acknowledge.” The seasoned auror smiled. But, his smile promised everything unpleasant.

Snape’s pride reasserted itself. He contemptuously glared at Mad Eye. “Do your worst. You can’t make me talk. I will not betray the Dark Lord.”


Snape’s world suddenly exploded in an excruciatingly burning and stabbing haze. His body grotesquely arched like a plucked bow. He tried to hold his scream. But, it hurt too much. “AAAH H H H H H!” He screamed, and screamed until his voice was hoarse. The pain just went on and on and on. After a few moments, he felt himself slipping into oblivion. He thankfully welcomed it, anything to escape the terrible curse. Then, the pain unexpectedly stopped.

The air swooshed out of him as he felt his body relaxed. Breathing hard, he tried to still his twitching body. He couldn’t think of anything, but the merciful reprieve. But, even before he could recover, he heard the dreaded unforgivable curse shouted again.


“AAAH H H H H H!” His body jerked like it was electrified. His horrible scream bounced off the wall of the silently charmed room. “STOP! I BEG OF YOU, STOP!” he shouted pitifully. Snape knew Mad Eye personally and by reputation. He knew the seasoned auror would not stop, until he got the information he wanted. The pain continued. He thought the auror ignored him. Then, suddenly, the pain mercifully stopped again. He sagged forward on his chair, half-consciously. The rope kept him from toppling to the floor. His face was awash with sweat, spittle, and tears. He felt his whole body throbbing painfully at every little move he made.

Mad Eye allowed Snape a little respite after hearing his pitiful plea. For a moment, he silently watched the barely conscious Potions Master. He didn’t gloat or mocked him. It was enough Snape lost the will to resist. “I want to know where Voldemort is holding Longbottom and Auror Tonks, prisoner.”

Snape licked his parched lips. He weakly lifted his head, and firmly looked at Mad Eye in the eye, his good eye. “I can’t tell you where they are. I am not the Dark Lord’s secret-keeper,” he said with irritation. Although he’s still physically weak, his old loathsome disposition was recovering nicely. Snape held Mad Eye’s gaze for a few more minutes. Then, unexpectedly, he laughed humorlessly.

“What is so bloody funny, Snape,” Mad Eye barked angrily, suspiciously confused at the Potions Master’s sudden mirth. “It seemed like you have regained your paltry courage. Perhaps, you need another lesson in humility.”

Snape was secretly pleased he caught the seasoned auror off-guard. Mad Eye didn’t even detect his /Legilimency/. If he played his cards right, he could bargain for his freedom. “You make it looked like I’m the only one who betrayed the Order. What about you and the headmaster?” he scathingly accused Mad Eye. “Don’t think for one minute I don’t know that you, on the behest of the headmaster, made a secret agreement with the Dark Lord.” Snape stopped for a moment to catch his breath. “The exchange was only for appearance’s sake. Dumbledore very well knew the Dark Lord wanted the Evans boy. And yet, no Order member was posted to guard him. If not for Madam Pomfrey and Potter’s mudblood wife, the boy would have been defenseless.”

He smirked when he saw Mad Eye lost his tough expression. “You and the headmaster should have just given the boy. The Dark Lord was willing to honor the exchange…Evans for Madam Bones. But, you were ambitious. You and Dumbledore thought you found the perfect opportunity to trap the Dark Lord. You were even willing to sacrifice Potter’s squib son and that joke of an auror, Tonks. Well, both of you thought wrong. Do you honestly believe the Ministry and Dumbledore’s wards would be enough to capture the Dark Lord?” Snape sneered at Mad Eye. “Constant vigilance, indeed.”

For a moment, Mad Eye thoughtfully regarded the Potions Master’s derisive expression. “Sometimes, Snape, you’re too bloody smart for your own good. Tell me, did you…” Whatever he was going to ask was left unasked, when he saw the door behind him slowly opened. Mad Eye tried to contain his annoyance. Kingsley knew enough not to interrupt him unless it’s an emergency.

Snape could make out a shadowed figure, framed by the door. “I’m sorry to bother you, Moody. We’re urgently needed at Hogwarts.” The Potions Master ironically smiled. It seemed his torture would have to be postponed…for now.

“You go on ahead, Kingsley. Tell them I will be delayed.” Mad Eye waited until the door fully closed, before turning his attention back to the Potions Master. “I guess this is your lucky day, Snape. But, before I leave, I want to know. Have you shared your over-active imagination with anyone else?” he demanded with deadly calmness. Snape smiled in a way which hinted he did. “Good try. But, unfortunately for you, I don’t believe you have.” Slowly, Mad Eye raised his wand again. “I believe you’re the only one who truly knows what happened. And, you will continue to keep this information to yourself, because you will take it to your grave.”

Snape’s eyes grew wide with shock and fear. “WAIT…”

“Avada Kedavra!”

Snape’s shocked fearful expression was forever captured in death. “The rest of the Order will not like this,” Mad Eye said aloud to himself, uncaringly. “I was too rough on him. He didn’t survive the interrogation.” He bent down, and started cutting Snape’s bindings. “Well, I better clean this up. Can’t let anyone see him like this.” He transfigured Snape into a piece of stick, and put it in his pocket. He hoped someday, he would get a chance to shove the stick up You-Know-Who’s arse. Mad Eye nastily smiled at the picture it conjured in his mind. He was sure Snape would love it.

Kingsley Shacklebolt didn’t go straight to Hogwarts. He made one more stop. At the Auror Office, he paused at one of the open cubicles. For a moment, he watched James Potter busily poring over various parchments. He knocked loudly on the cubicle wall to announce his presence. But, the Lead Auror kept on working.

“James,” Shacklebolt called softly. James didn’t respond. He was about to call the Lead Auror’s name again, when the wizard in question quizzically looked at him. “Professor McGonagall called a meeting. Thought you’d like to know.” He saw James unemotionally nodded at him, before going back to his work. “Right… See you there, then.”

With a quiet sigh, Shacklebolt left without any further afterthought. As he waited patiently for the elevator, he couldn’t help remembering the previous day’s debacle. You-Know-Who masterfully played them like fools. In one fell swoop, the evil wizard delivered a debilitating blow to the Order. Longbottom was almost an Order member, being privy to some of the information discussed at Order meetings. The Evans boy was not an Order member. But, his parents were. He had an idea what’s keeping James occupied. He would be doing the same thing if his son was missing. The arrival of the elevator brought his wandering thoughts back to reality. An old, balding wizard stepped out, and briefly glanced at him.

“Shacklebolt! Good to see you again.”

Shacklebolt curiously looked at the wizard who cheerfully greeted him. “Foster, good to see you too.” He lightly smiled in recognition. “So, what brought you to this floor?” It was a rare occasion to see the clerk outside of his office at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

“Oh… I have an official business with one of the aurors.” Foster briefly showed him a rolled parchment. The door of the elevator started to close. Shacklebolt immediately reached out to stop it from closing. “Well, I won’t delay you any longer. Nice to see you again, Shacklebolt.”

“Likewise, Foster.” Before he entered the elevator, Shacklebolt momentarily observed the departing wizard. He wondered what could be so important with the parchment that it couldn’t be delivered the normal way.

Back at James’ office cubicle, the former marauder was still busy reading various parchments. They were intelligence reports on the latest Death Eaters’ activities. Since he came to work at seven that morning, he had been trying to find a clue to Voldemort’s hideout. He was tired and lacked sleep. But, so far, the only lead he could pick up was a trail of senseless death and destruction. Every Death Eater safe house on their files either turned up empty or misleading. He knew it’s hopeless. He had been through this same routine a number of times before. But, as his promise to his wife, he would find Harry, and bring him home.

“Excuse me, Auror Potter. Could I have a moment of your time?” He heard a worried voice asked. He didn’t respond. He didn’t look up either. James thought that if he continued to ignore the unknown wizard, he would stop bothering him and go away. “Auror Potter, I really need to talk to you. It’s about your son, Harry Evans.”

“What?” James senses came alive at the mention of his son. He immediately sat up straight, and suspiciously looked at an old wizard, standing just outside his cubicle entrance. “What about my son?” Slowly, he got off his chair, and menacingly stood in front of his fidgety visitor.

“You probably don’t remember me. My name is Harvey Foster.” His guest nervously offered his right hand for a handshake. “I work in the….”

“…Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Yeah, I remember you.” James politely shook his hand, calming down a bit. He led his visitor to a chair by his table. “Please, have a seat.” Then, he went back to his own chair and sat down. With heart pounding in dread, he anxiously asked “So, Mr. Foster… You were saying something about my son?”

“Well…yes… Normally, I wouldn’t do this. It’s against Ministry policy, you see. But, you saved my wife, Millie. So, here…” Foster tentatively handed him a rolled parchment.

James anxiously unrolled the parchment, and slowly read the content. “What the bloody hell…” James suddenly looked up, and angrily glared at the old wizard. “Is this some kind of a joke?” He disgustedly dropped the parchment on the table. “My son is not a werewolf! And, I’m bloody well sure he didn’t kill anyone! Not in cold blood!”

“Please, calm down Auror Potter,” pleaded the clerk nervously. “I didn’t write that order. And…and…I’m sure there has been a mistake. That’s why I brought this order to your attention. So, you can set the records straight, while there’s still time.”

James furiously considered his course of action for a moment. He must see the minister at once. That’s for sure. Scrimgeour was the only one with the power to cancel the order. He, then, embarrassingly brought his attention back to his visitor. “Please accept my apology, Mr. Foster. You were trying to help, and I snapped at you. I should be thanking you for your help,” he said sincerely.

“Apology accepted.” Foster sympathetically nodded at James. “Believe me, I understand how you feel.” He picked up the parchment, and carefully rolled it again.

“Is there any chance you could, somehow, misplace that parchment…at least just for a day or two.” James looked hopefully at the clerk.

“Well... I think I can manage that.” Foster smiled cleverly. “After all, it is not uncommon for our department to lose tract of a parchment or two.”

Already anxious to see the minister, James finally stood up, and led his visitor to the door. “Thank you again for your help.” He gratefully shook the clerk’s hand.

“You are welcome, Auror Potter.” The clerk left, happy to repay a life debt.

As soon as the old clerk was out of sight, James hastily grabbed his cloak off the stand, and went to see the minister. He would have immediately entered Scrimgeour’s office, unannounced. Unfortunately, Percy Weasley, Junior Assistant to the Minister for Magic stopped him by squarely planting himself in front of the office door.

“I want to see Minister Scrimgeour,” the lead auror said abruptly.

“Do you have an appointment, Auror Potter?” Percy standoffishly asked, unmindful of James’ brusque manner.

James didn’t bother asking the young Weasley to just let him in. Percy was a stickler to rules and regulations. With utmost restraint, he coolly replied, “No. And, I don’t need any appointment. This is auror business.”

“I see.” Although Percy’s face was neutral, there was a hint of doubt in his voice. “I wonder why Gawain Robards didn’t come himself. Isn’t he the Head of Auror Office?”

James could tell the lofty position went to Percy’s head. “I have been ordered to directly report any update on Death Eater activities to Minister Scrimgeour.” He hoped his little white lie would pass muster.

For a moment, Percy looked at him dubiously. “I still can’t let you in,” he said finally, in an almost patronizing tone of voice. “The minister is out.”

“Out?” he asked disbelievingly. “Why didn’t you tell me in the first place, instead of wasting our time here?” James, feeling desperate, was slowly losing his patience. “Where did he go?”

Percy pinned him with a disapproving glare. “That is confidential. I’m not at liberty to reveal the minister’s itinerary.”

James had a strong urge to throttle the information out of the stuck up git. But, it probably wouldn’t do him any good. Percy was as unbending as any of the Ministry red tape. In annoyance, he briefly glanced at his watch, and almost cursed out loud. He lost track of time. He was already very late for Professor McGonagall’s meeting.

“Listen, Per…” James quickly noted the redheaded wizard’s displeasure at his familiarity. “…Weasley. Would you make an appointment for me to see the minister tomorrow morning?”

Percy appropriately checked his appointment book. “I’m sorry, Auror Potter. The minister’s schedule for tomorrow is full.” Slowly flipping the velum page, he found a free time. “You can see him Thursday afternoon, next week.” The junior assistant expectantly looked at him, his quill poised over the page.

James inwardly grimaced in frustration. “I can’t wait that long. Just put my name first on the appointment book for tomorrow. Tell him it’s an important auror business. He’ll see me.” Percy skeptically looked at him. He smiled charmingly in return, and left. He doubted the junior assistant would actually write his name on the appointment book. It didn’t matter to him, though. He would see the minister… appointment or not.

“Hello, Mr. Potter,” he heard a male voice courteously greeted him as he walked by the Atrium.

He stopped and curiously searched for the caller. He saw the smiling eldest son of Arthur Weasley, walking towards him. “Hello, Bill.” He cheerfully exchanged handshakes with the Gringotts’ curse breaker. “Are you here to help your father do some research for Professor Dumbledore?” he asked cryptically.

“Yes, Dad thought Madam Pomfrey will need all our help.” They lapsed into grim silence. They both knew the importance of finding the counter-curse.

“Best of luck, then.” Again, they shook hands. “And, give my regards to your dad.”

“I will.” As Bill walked away, James wondered why Percy couldn’t be like his brothers.

At Hogwarts, inside Headmaster Dumbledore’s office, Tonks was concluding her report. “The Death Eater named Ferghus escaped taking Harry Evans with him. The rest you know. You found me, Neville and Madam Bones.” She let her eyes roamed at the faces of her audience. For the moment, Shacklebolt, Mad Eye, Professor McGonagall, and Minister Scrimgeour were the only other people present. For a moment, they sat pondering what they heard. Their faces all showed varying degree of emotions.

No longer able to contain his impatience, Scrimgeour hastily asked the first question. “Did you find out where you were taken, Auror Tonks?”

“No, sir. At my capture, the portkey, the Death Eaters used, deposited us directly to You-Know-Who’s dungeon,” Tonks replied properly.

Scrimgeour’s lips thinned with displeasure. “Did you ask that Ferghus fellow where you were?”

Tonks unemotionally gazed at the minister for a moment, secretly annoyed. “No, sir. At the time, escaping with our lives was my top priority.”

“Did you even consider…” Scrimgeour began to ask, but Professor McGonagall promptly cut his one-tracked question.

The headmistress sternly addressed Scrimgeour. “Minister, under the existing circumstances at the time, I believe Auror Tonks performed her duty splendidly. A less competent auror would have surely died while escaping You-Know-Who’s lair.” McGonagall, then, smilingly transferred her attention to the pink-haired witch. “For saving the lives of The-Boy-Who-Lived and the former Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Auror Tonks deserves an Order of Merlin, Third Class, at least.”

Tonks blushed deeply at the uncommon praise by McGonagall. “Thank you, headmistress. But, the award is unnecessary. As you said, it was my duty.”

“Nonsense… McGonagall is right.” Mad Eye loudly approved. “You did well, Auror Tonks.”

Tonks, who was usually quick with words, was speechless. A feeling of pride washed over her. Two of the people she highly admired just paid her a compliment. When she turned her attention to the minister, she noticed he seemed to be deep in thought. She presumed the minister was probably thinking of a way to deny McGonagall’s recommendation. Suddenly, loud knocks sounded, drawing everyone’s attention to the door.

“Come in, Auror Potter,” McGonagall called out casually. A smile lit her eyes as a memory flashed through her mind. “A pixie told him…indeed.” She curiously asked Dumbledore one time, how he always seemed to know the identity of his visitors behind the door. His answer was a pixie told him. Now, she knew the truth.

When James entered the office, he was surprised to see the pink-haired auror. “Tonks, you’re here? How did you escape?” His eyes quickly travelled to the rest of the occupants. Excluding McGonagall, he noticed they were all from the Ministry.

“If you have arrived a little earlier, you would have heard her full report,” Scrimgeour said irately.

“My apologies, minister,” James said without any hint of regret in his voice. “I had a last minute visitor who I couldn’t avoid.”

“Please take a seat, Auror Potter. Don’t mind Minister Scrimgeour. He was just a little ticked-off at the lack of information concerning You-Know-Who’s whereabouts,” McGonagall said calmly.

James nodded in understanding. “So, how did you escape, Tonks?” he interestedly asked again, after finding a seat. “And, are you alright?” he added caringly as an afterthought.

“I’m fine. A Death Eater named Ferghus helped me. Well, strictly speaking, it wasn’t me he wanted to help, but the one I’m with…Harry Evans.” As she expected, the somber demeanor of the marauder turned animated. Different emotions played on his face, mostly hope and happiness.

“Harry’s with you?” James asked in disbelief and excitement. “Where is he? Is he in the hospital wing? Is he hurt?” Then, he remembered his very worried wife. He hastily stood up. “I have to tell Lily. She will be so happy to see him again.” The once worried father gratefully beamed at the pink-haired auror. “Thank you, Tonks. Thank you for bringing my son home.”

Tonks suddenly felt uncomfortable. “Umm…yes…well…about that…” She was at a loss for word on how to break the bad news. “I didn’t actually bring him home.” Even though she felt guilty for losing Harry, she, nevertheless, met James confused eyes, bravely. “Well, I did, but…”

“The stupid boy was held hostage by the same Death Eater who helped them escape,” Scrimgeour finished unkindly. “That werewolf son of yours didn’t know when to leave things well enough alone. He was taken somewhere by the Death Eater. That’s what he gets for interfering with auror business.”

“Minister!” cried McGonagall, appalled. She gave Scrimgeour her most stern look. She wasn’t the only one. Tonks, Shacklebolt, and Mad Eye glared at Scrimgeour none too kindly.

James dropped down feebly on his seat, shocked. For a moment, he had a sad faraway look in his eyes. Then, suddenly, they blazed with fury. He slowly shifted his eyes towards Scrimgeour. “Minister, insult my son again, and I may forget you’re the Minister for Magic. And, Harry is not a werewolf. You have no proof!”

Scrimgeour leaned forward and returned James’ menacing glare for glare. “Are you threatening me?” he asked ominously. “Do you realize I have the power to strip you of your rank and status? At my command, I can have you sent to Azkaban this very minute. So, don’t even try threatening me Auror Potter.” The minister tried to intimidate James with a hostile glare a few more minutes longer, before sitting back angrily. “And yes, your son is a werewolf.” The minister smiled with derision. “Someone saw him transformed, and then, attacked and killed Gregor Goyle. I have already signed an order for the Werewolf Capture Unit to arrest Harry Evans. He is charged for murder and for failure to follow safety regulations governing werewolf transformation.”

James, at first, looked disbelievingly at Scrimgeour. Dumbledore assured them Harry wasn’t a werewolf. Was the headmaster wrong? “That’s a lie! My son is not a werewolf!” James exclaimed, standing indignantly. The fact, that his son was being accused and arrested for murder, only played second to the truth or untruth of Harry’s affliction.

“Just who witnessed the attack on Goyle, minister?” Tonks asked suspiciously. Even though Death Eaters unwittingly told her Harry was a werewolf, she refused to reveal that information to stoke an obviously false accusation. “Last I saw him, he was guarding Neville at You-Know-Who’s lair. I doubt Harry ran into him again. They couldn’t have easily tracked Harry and Ferghus.”

“I can’t tell you the name of the witness,” Scrimgeour answered dismissively. “However, I hope to resolve this case at the trial.” He looked at the faces around him, until his eyes settled on the fuming lead auror again. “I’m sure you believe your son is innocent. But, I cannot ignore the killing of a pureblood by a werewolf. Rest assured, Auror Potter, your son will be judged fairly.” The minister smiled diplomatically.

James’ eyes narrowed with suspicion. The House of Potter was one of the few pureblood families who denied support for the current ministry. He suspected Scrimgeour was planning to use Harry’s case as leverage to gain support from him.

Meanwhile, at the hospital wing, a happy reunion was taking place. Neville was surrounded by his close friends. His girlfriend, Cho, was sitting on his right side. They were happy to see him alive and well. Neville’s friends, especially Susan, were also glad Madam Bones came through her ordeal alive. They were confident Madam Pomfrey would bring her back to health.

“You are really one lucky wizard, Nev!” Ron exclaimed admiringly. “Dad and the others thought for sure you’re a goner. I can’t blame them. It’s You-Know-Who.”

“Ron! What kind of a talk is that?” Hermione said in reproach.

Neville smiled understandingly. “It’s okay, Hermione. I thought I was a goner too. If it wasn’t for Tonks, I would be dead by now.” He curiously looked at the other beds. He saw two curtained ones. The rest was empty. “Speaking of Tonks, where is she? I haven’t seen her since she went to the headmaster’s office.”

“There’s probably an Order meeting. I guess she’s still there making her report,” Ron said casually.

“What about Gran?” Neville asked anxiously. “Has she been told I’m back? She must be worried sick.”

“Um…Neville… There was so much confusion after you disappeared,” Cho hesitantly started. “I don’t think anyone got the chance to inform your Gran.” At Neville’s growing frown, Cho hastily continued. “And, that’s good. Now, that you’re back. Your Gran doesn’t have to worry needlessly. You can tell her if you like, of course.”

“Of course,” Neville repeated coldly. But, his animosity didn’t last long. He could understand what his friends went through. “I’ll tell her later. Hopefully, she hasn’t found out anything about this from the Daily Prophet.”

“There’s no chance of that,” assured Ron confidently. “Professor McGonagall made everyone promise not to say anything without her approval. We also made sure no bug was listening.” Ron gave Neville a conspiratorial wink.

There was a moment of friendly silence, until Hermione spoke. “Neville, when you were at You-Know-Who’s lair, have you, by any chance, seen Harry?” she asked with concern. Behind her, Ron scowled irately.

“Yes, I have.” Hermione’s eyes lit up with hope and dread. For a moment, Neville wondered what she saw in Evans to deserve her friendship. “Harry and his Death Eater friend escaped along with us.”

“I knew it!” exclaimed Ron triumphantly. “I knew that tosser is a dark wizard!” Then, suddenly, something struck him as odd. “Wait a minute… Why is a Death Eater escaping along with you?”

“Hush, Ron!” Hermione cried in annoyance. “Neville, please, tell us what happened. Why wasn’t he with you, when you arrived?”

Neville looked sadly at Hermione. “He was taken hostage by his Death Eater friend. We were almost at Hogwarts when Tonks arrested the Death Eater. Harry got in the way by defending him. You see, the Death Eater helped us a little in our escape. Tonks and I tried to convince Harry to stay out of it. But, he was just too stubborn to listen.” Thinking Hermione was feeling distraught, he hastily added, “But, don’t worry. I’m sure Auror Potter will do everything in his power to find him.”

Hermione worriedly nodded. “I guess he felt indebted to the Death Eater for helping all of you escape,” she said, trying to understand Harry’s behavior.

“Oh come on, Hermione.” Ron said in protest. “The man’s a Death Eater. It may be a set-up by You-Know-Who.”

“Well, it obviously wasn’t since they’re here,” Hermione snapped irately. “Besides, what could You-Know-Who possibly gain by letting Neville escape, hmm?”

“It’s You-Know-Who!” Ron angrily retorted. “Who knows what evil plan that prat is hatching?”

“Or maybe, he didn’t plan to let them escape at all!” Hermione angrily retorted back.

Their loud voices attracted the attention of Madam Pomfrey. The two Gryffindors were unaware, when the school nurse came out of her office. “Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, I would appreciate it if you will take your argument outside.” The stern voice of Madam Pomfrey put a stop to their heated discussion.

“I’m sorry, Madam Pomfrey,” said Hermione, her face red from embarrassment.

“Sorry,” Ron mumbled simply.

The curtain separating them from Madam Bones parted, and out came Susan, Ginny, and Luna. Susan’s eyes were red from crying. Ginny and Luna were softly comforting her. For a moment, Madam Pomfrey was distracted by the sight of the sad Hufflepuff girl. She deeply sympathized with the girl. She hoped Amelia Bones would fully recover. The school nurse, then, turned her attention back to the two Gryffindors.

“I trust there will be no more loud conversation?” The two students quietly agreed. “Good. Remember, this is the hospital wing, not your common room.” Before retreating to her office, she left Neville with a reminder. “Mr. Longbottom, I want to see those potion bottles empty, by the time I get back.” Neville made a face at the potions sitting on top of his bedside table.

Susan, standing on Neville’s left side of the bed, spoke first as soon as Madam Pomfrey’s office door closed behind her. “Thank you Neville for bringing back my aunt.” Susan became teary-eyed again. “She’s the only family I have left.” The Hufflepuff girl blew her nose on her handkerchief. “I just wish Auror Tonks discovered You-Know-Who’s hiding place. So, the Ministry can capture that evil git, and lock him in Azkaban, forever.”

For a moment, Neville looked blankly at Susan. Then, suddenly, he gave a frustrated cry. “Arghhh… How can I be so forgetful?” Neville carelessly threw his blanket off him. His friends were puzzled at his odd behavior. “Come on. Let’s go see Professor Dumbledore. I know where Voldemort is hiding.” But, before he could get off his bed, Cho stopped him. “What’s wrong?” Neville noticed his friends anxiously looked at one another. “Did something bad happen while I was gone?” he asked in alarm. For a moment, nobody answered his questions. Everyone just looked disturb. “Well?” He looked questioningly at each of his friends. “Will someone please tell me?”

“You-Know-Who put a curse on Professor Dumbledore,” Ron blurted unhappily.

Cho momentarily frowned at the redheaded teenager. Then, she turned her attention back at her boyfriend. She nervously wet her dry lips. “Neville, during the exchange, Professor Dumbledore was injured.”

Neville immediately looked at the other partitioned bed. He didn’t need to be told who occupied the bed. Ignoring his friends’ and girlfriend’s pleas, he ran to Dumbledore’s bedside. Looking down at his bedridden headmaster, he never in his wildest dream imagined Dumbledore could be defeated. The headmaster always seemed to glow with power and life. He slowly reached for Dumbledore’s right hand, and gently held it. “Will he be alright?” he asked in a voice filled with sorrow. His eyes never strayed from Dumbledore’s pale face.

“Madam Pomfrey and other Order members are doing their best to find a cure,” Cho answered quietly from behind him.

“...All of us as well,” Hermione added kindly.

Neville was silent for a moment. And then, with great care, he laid Dumbledore’s hand on the bed. He slowly turned around, and inquiringly looked at his friends. “Professor McGonagall is left in charge, then?” At everyone’s nod, a determined expression settled over his face. At that moment, he vowed to put a stop to You-Know-Who’s reign of terror. “Come on. Let’s go see her. I have to tell her where Voldemort is hiding, before he gets away.” He quickly walked towards the door, his friends following his trail.

Back at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Harvey Foster was busy clearing his table. For the most part of the day, he had been cataloguing, filing and distributing reports and orders to different divisions of his office. At last, he had folded and sent away the last of the correspondence. He looked with satisfaction at his clean table, and then, drew out his pocket watch. Not a minute to spare.

“Leaving early, Mr. Foster?” He looked up to see Mrs. Havershaw, hovering near his table. She’s a plump, middle-aged witch with a very likeable personality.

“Indeed I am, Mrs. Havershaw.” The old wizard smiled amiably at the witch. “My Millie and I have a dinner date tonight. I don’t want to be late.” Looking one last time at his clean desktop, he stood up, grabbed his cloak off the back of his chair… “Well, I’m off. See you tomorrow, Mrs. Havershaw.” …and headed for the door.

“Mr. Foster! Wait!” The old wizard quizzically turned around. “Could I borrow a bottle of your ink? Mine is empty.”

“Of course, my dear. They’re inside the drawer. Just put it on top of my table when you’re done.” With that, the old wizard continued on his way.

“Thank you!” the witch shouted in gratitude. She went around the table, and pulled out the center drawer. When she didn’t find the ink, she pulled the upper right hand drawer next…nothing. She rummaged through the next one down…still nothing. She continued to the last one down. It was empty except for a rolled parchment. She had almost closed the drawer, when the parchment faintly glowed.

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Havershaw muttered in concern. Ministry parchments didn’t glow. But, minister’s parchment did. And, it only glowed when it’s about to miss its delivery deadline. She quickly picked it up and read it. “Hmm…This parchment is for the Beast Division. An arrest order for a werewolf named Harry Evans…” Quickly, she folded the parchment into a makeshift airplane, and sent it on its way.

Mrs. Havershaw finally found the bottle of ink in the upper left hand drawer. As she walked back to her desk, she was glad she saw the parchment. If the glow died and it wasn’t delivered, it would have gotten Mr. Foster into a lot of trouble. And, he was such a nice old wizard to be in trouble with the minister, no less.
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