Harry Potter and the Cracked Reservoir
Chapter 45: A Reckoning
Chapter 45: A Reckoning
Thank you to my Betas; Cateagle, Sparky40sw, Rictor
Like a freight train, Fudge steamed into his office, closely trailed by an almost amused Amelia Bones; Director of Magical Law Enforcement, a calmly determined Harry Potter; the Boy Who Lived, and an angry motherbear-ish Ginny Weasley; title pending. They hadn't even had a chance to find seats, not that they were invited to, before Fudge slammed the door in Percy's face and rounded on his guests.
“What in the bloody hell was the meaning of that?” the Minister yelled. “Madame Bones, I expected better of you.”
She was taken aback. “Me? I did nothing but my job today.”
“Yes, today,” he spat. “He was obviously prompted to humiliate me so, and it has your signature all over it.”
“Minister, you know not what you're talking about,” Madame Bones responded vehemently, adjusting her monocle.
“I'm talking about that display out there,” Fudge returned. “Oh, you thought you could change policy through a puppet did you? Well, it won't happen, I tell you. You'll take your direction from this office and you'll like it,” he boomed directly in her face.
He was removed from his face-to-face with his subordinate by a strong hand on his shoulder.
“Step away from her before you look more the fool than you already do,” Harry said in less than a scream.
Fudge, in surprise, rounded on the teenager. “What was that!?!”
Ginny, at Harry's side, made a move to step to his defense, but Harry restrained her with a light hand on her forearm. She was only receptive enough to Harry's control attempt to turn to his eyes before she unloaded on both the Minister for his attempted bullying and Harry for trying to stop her. What she saw in his eyes gave her pause. His deep green eyes expressed that he had his reasons and implored trust. With her acceptance, the look passed before he turned his attention back to the seething Minister Fudge.
“Minister Fudge,” Harry stated as levelly as he could manage, “the reason that I was reporting and registering my Animagus ability directly with Madame Bones was my trust in her. I've faced Voldemort and his Death Eaters,” Harry paused at the Minister's flinch, “too many times not to realize that I need as many advantages in the fight as I can find. Had the maniac not been aware of any Animagus ability, it could have aided me in the future to escape and live to fight on more advantageous footing when I can strike a blow. If he manages to trap me and incarcerate me, a transformation may be my only means of survival. What you did today served no one but yourself and the enemy.”
“I'll have you know that I have always been a staunch supporter of the light, Mr. Potter,” Fudge railed.
Ginny chanced a glance at Madame Bones's reaction to such an...interesting statement. She didn't know how to interpret the woman's facial expressions in detail, but knew that she took some umbrage with the thought and could see her self-restraint in withholding a retort.
“No, Minister Fudge, you've always been a staunch supporter of your own rise to and collection of power and the rights of pure-bloods over those with Muggle heritage, irregardless of talent and qualifications,” Harry retorted. “Whether it's through the judicious misuse of power or the collection of 'donations' from questionable sources, everything you do is to improve your power base. You refused to acknowledge the return of this world's biggest threat because it 'couldn't be true'. Well, it was true Minister, he did return, as you found out directly half a year ago. Yet, since then, all of your actions have resulted in the citizens only being superficially safer with a pamphlet of safety tips that wouldn't help in the least if Death Eaters were to decide that a wizarding house was to be the next target of their brand of fun.”
Fudge visibly bristled at Harry's belittling of the war effort to date.
“Those Informational Pamphlets were drawn up by England's foremost experts on the subject of personal defense,” Fudge protested.
“Undoubtedly that list of experts would have included former Professor Gilderoy Lockhart if he wasn't a permanent resident of St. Mungo's long term care ward.”
“Before his unfortunate accident, he was a very respected man,” Fudge proclaimed. “It was a real coup at the time to aid the Headmaster in procuring the assistance of such a famous figure.”
“You really are an idiot,” Harry stated. “Professor Lockhart was a fraud, not that you would care. His only expertise was in memory charms. Each of his stories was taken from a real hero before he wiped their memory of the incident. He's in the ward due to his trying to wipe a couple of students' memories with a broken wand.”
By now they were escalating their 'conversation' to deafening levels. “Now see here, Mr. Potter,” Fudge returned. “I will not be talked to in this manner. I'll have you brought before the Wizengamot before I accept this kind of treatment from anyone.”
Both Ginny and Amelia gasped at the gall of the wizarding leader's threat.
“Go ahead, bring me before the Wizengamot, Fudge,” Harry growled a warning, “and the first thing out of my mouth will be a call for a vote of no confidence in your administration and your leadership in this time of war. Then we'll see where the chips fall. You've run roughshod over me for the last time. Just for your edification, Minister, Director Bones has never discussed, with me, anything but what she has been required to as a law enforcement professional. You should apologize right now for accusing this fine witch of conducting herself in anything but a completely professional manner. I didn't need anyone to tell me about what little you have done to show support to your department heads. All it took was to read the summation of the Wizengamot minutes in the Prophet to see that each of her attempts at increasing the effectiveness of the Auror corps were met with staunch opposition centered around you. I wonder why the press hasn't picked up on that little fact? Could it be that Madame Bones doesn't play the dirty politics that seem to saturate your life?”
“Oh, she plays politics, Potter,” Fudge informed him. “She may not be a shrewd professional at it, as I am, but at her level of any government, most of the job is politics. She wouldn't have a department left if she didn't know how to play the factions to get what she wants. Her problem is that she isn't as devious or ruthless as some of us. Rising to the top of the Government really does take a Slytherin, not a Hufflepuff.”
“I happen to know some cunning, ambitious Hufflepuffs and some honorable, hardworking Slytherins,” Harry returned, “So, the house means less to me than the man.”
“Let's hope that that's not your folly, Potter,” Fudge cautioned. “And what did you expect to gain from your display out there?”
“I expect,” Harry declared, “that you'll do just as the press believes you intend to do. I expect you'll support your department heads, especially Madame Bones here. I expect you'll find the funding to provide the Department of Magical Law Enforcement with the tools and personnel they need to do the job.” Harry paused for a breath. “And I expect you'll stop supporting and receiving support from suspected Death Eaters from this war and the last. If I could dictate the government...”
Harry trailed off, interrupted by a brief mutter from Fudge, “Like you aren't already?”
“...I would insist on all suspects receiving proper trials before incarceration in Azkaban,” Harry continued. “I would want there to be no more storing of suspects in Azkaban without trial for months or years on end, just because it looks like they did it.”
“I never...” Fudge argued.
“Sure you weren't in the position you're in now when Sirius Black was imprisoned without a trial,” Harry conceded, “but you were when you put Rubeus Hagrid there several years ago without a shred of evidence so that you could look to be 'doing something'. It's time to clean up your act, Minister.”
The combined effect of the meeting left not an insignificant amount of shock in the two witches in attendance. In truth, Harry would have held more than his fair share of shock if he hadn't been one of the participants in the heated discussion. Harry held his ground with as neutral as expression as he could muster. Fudge, however, looked ready to blow.
“I think that this meeting is well over,” Fudge declared in a more even tone than could reasonably have been expected. “Madame Bones,” he addressed the shocked official, “Please see that these children make it to a floo and back to where they need to go.”
“Sorry for what you had to see in there, Madame Bones,” Harry apologized.
“Nothing to apologize for, Mr. Potter,” Madame Bones responded as the trio walked to the end of the hallway where they could exit the top floor of the Ministry. “You did what you had to do, and may have improved my ability to do my job. Do you always manage to attract such interesting events in your life?”
Harry smiled. “What? Ginny was there too. She doesn't get any of the blame?” he joked.
They waited for the lift to retrieve them for their short journey to the floor below, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
“It was rather entertaining how little checking it took to ascertain a glimpse of your exploits since rejoining the wizarding world, Harry,” Madame Bones told him. “No, I don't believe for one moment that Ms. Weasley's attendance made any difference in the unusual occurrences of today. No offense, Ms. Weasley.”
“None taken,” Ginny smiled as they entered the lift with a half dozen paper airplane memorandums.
“And I thought we were being quiet all those times. We didn't think that anyone could have found out all of the things that we've done at Hogwarts,” Harry said.
“No, Mr. Potter,” the Director returned. “There are many in Hogwarts that have paid close attention to any detail that they could over your years of schooling. And your adventures have become the stuff of legend. You'll find that many of them are quite skilled in understanding the difference between truth and wild rumor.”
“Susan?” Ginny realized.
“Yes,” Madame Bones answered. “I am afraid that, despite my attempts over the years at moderation, my niece grew up like many young witches of your generation, with stories of The-Boy-Who-Lived and your contribution to our world as a baby. She developed a not-too-uncommon crush on the man she envisioned you're going to grow up to be.”
Harry groaned. “I guess I should consider myself lucky that I wasn't mobbed in my first year. I still don't believe that there really were that many other witches out there with crushes. If there were, thankfully, they've gotten over their crushes.”
Madame Bones didn't answer as she had walked ahead after they exited the lift one floor below the Minister's office. She paused at random offices in her department, undoubtedly answering questions and checking the progress on cases and projects.
“Hmm,” Ginny hummed privately to Harry. “Some of us never did.”
“No,” Harry said sweetly. “You got over your crush. You couldn't like me, Harry James Potter, if you still were blinded by a crush on The-Boy-Who-Lived.”
“Maybe I'm helping you to become the man that I've always known you could be,” Ginny offered. “Would it be so bad if I still think of you as my knight in shining armor?”
“As long as you'll be in love the real me,” Harry said, “I can accept that you see me as moving toward something.”
“Here we are,” Madame Bones said as they caught up with her at her office door. “You may use the floo from my office to the Burrow. Unless there is anything else you need to take care of today?”
“No, thank you, Madame,” Harry answered, squeezing Ginny's hand affectionately. “I believe that we're done here. Thank you for your help.”
“Yes, thank you, Madame,” Ginny added.
“You're not able to take this opportunity to take your apparition exams early then, Mr. Potter?” Madame Bones asked, a slight hint of surprise on her face. “You, after all, have been an adult wizard or the better part of four months.”
Harry looked down and blushed a little, showing his youth to the authority figure. “No,” Harry said. “I haven't trained in that yet. I spent my time on other training.”
“Very well,” she responded. “Other things can be important, Mr. Potter, but you'll find that Apparition is an essential skill that could help you to safety in the future. Just be sure to avail yourself of the opportunities available through your Hogwarts schooling. Don't let your pursuit of something as eccentric as multiple Animagus forms distract you from the essentials of wizarding education. The reason behind the rarity of multiple Animagi, besides the scarcity of the capacity for that extent of the skill in most witches and wizards, is the time it would take that could be spent on other core studies.”
“Yes, thank you, Madame Bones,” Harry said with sincerity.
“You're welcome,” she replied. She then held out a heavy metal dish with a polished lid that was filled with the silvery powder of Floo Travel. “Now off you go.”
Harry and Ginny thanked the Director one more time each before vanishing in the green fire of the fireplace.
The next morning proved to Harry that Rita Skeeter had not been in attendance anywhere amongst the throng of bodies at the Press Conference, as the news articles were accurate and truthful. He couldn't find one piece of sensationalism that the Minister had not given to the press himself. This might have pleased Harry, except for the nature of the information that the Minister gave away to the press in the first place. He reckoned, though, that the big black cat with sharp claws and teeth was already out of the bag. He'd just have to avoid the Minister's dealings in the future, lest he have to follow through on his threats to get a recall of the Minister started.
Harry received encouragement in many forms from the Weasley family, from a 'Good show,' from Percy to campaign posters from the Twins if he should decide to raise a coup for the Ministry of Magic's head position. Harry thanked them all, but had to disappoint the twins firmly, lest he be elected without his knowing. He had a feeling that they would do it just as the ultimate prank on the entire wizarding world, foreign and domestic.
The remaining days of the Holidays went without fanfare or hoopla. They generally studied as little as possible and enjoyed themselves as much as possible, which for Hermione looked remarkably like the studying, only with different books.
Ron was quiet in his enjoyment of the end of the holidays. He spent his time with Harry, when Harry wasn't snogging Ginny, Hermione, when he could get her to participate in the snogging, or his brothers when Harry and Ginny were feeling the need for romance but Hermione wasn't. Hermione may have taken issue with his referring to snogging as any sort of romance, if he had ever uttered it aloud, but she still exercised her own need for the enjoyment of the activity not infrequently.
Towards the end of the holiday break Harry and Ginny managed to have a private broom race around the perimeter of the Burrow's Quidditch pitch, where Ginny's broom proved to be more advanced and better suited for such a competition. Ginny won without question. Harry accepted defeat graciously, offering the winner her prize, which was very little different than if he had won. In the end, they both walked away happy.
“Get up,” Mrs. Weasley interrupted Harry's peaceful slumber. “Get up you two if you want to be able to eat breakfast before it's time to leave.”
Harry took a moment to contemplate the merits of skipping breakfast in favor of more sleep, the soothing warmth of the kitchen and living room fireplace rose to make Ron's room at the top of the Burrow quite deliciously toasty, in a pleasant winter morning kind of way. But, in the end, Harry decided that Mrs. Weasley probably didn't mean it as a choice to be made. He poked his head from under the covers to find Ron absent, probably roused more easily with the promise of a last breakfast cooked by his mother for the season. Harry threw the covers free and levered his legs off the edge of the bed. By the time he had his feet planted and his body balanced above, he was reminded that he hadn't been keeping up on his exercise regimen, commonly blaming the winter snow and lack of indoor facilities of any sort over the Christmas Holidays. Harry shook off his laziness and stopped by his trunk on the way to the facilities a couple of floors below, where a welcome bath might loosen Morpheus' grasp.
“Bout time,” Ron greeted Harry around his eggs, which Harry received an all too clear view of as Ron talked. “We saved you some.” Ron punctuated his egg filled statement by motioning to the remnants of breakfast left at the bottom of the dishes on the table.
Harry sat down and found he had no room to complain, as 'some' consisted of four eggs, toast, bacon and sausage, potatoes and a couple of waffles, still warm. Mindful of his recent indolent leanings, Harry left as much as he took, although still opting for the orange marmalade for his toast.
Ginny leaned to his ear to quietly inquire, “Not hungry, Harry?”
He looked at her to see that she was mildly concerned and completely sincere. Harry would have considered the breakfast before him to be rather large when he was still with the Dursleys, but it barely rated for normal for Hogwarts' standards and wouldn't even compare to the standard Weasley breakfast plate.
“Come on, Harry,” Ginny continued when she didn't see sufficient reason in his eyes after he didn't immediately answer. She reached for more of each item, adding a bit of everything to his plate. “You could still use the extra, and you're going to restart your training and exercise when we get back anyway. Just eat up,” she urged him.
Harry saw an approving look from Mrs. Weasley directed at her daughter and knew he was trapped, albeit not unhappily. He couldn't find any objection to Ginny trying to take care of him. Happily, he dug in, slathering a waffle with sweet butter and English maple syrup.
With trunks packed, pets secured or sent ahead and ears washed, Mrs. Weasley gathered everyone for the floo trip to the Leaky Cauldron, where Remus and Tonks would join the graduated Weasley children and matriarch in escorting Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Harry to Kings Cross Station for their journey back to Hogwarts. Harry remembered, once again, to spread his feet, tuck his elbows and bend his knees, and was thus able to keep his feet, until, that is, Ginny joined him with her trunk, colliding with him and sending them both sprawling to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
“Ginny,” Harry muffled, as he found himself pinned beneath his girlfriend, his face pressed to her stomach, his nose pushing her shirt into her belly button. Her warm winter coat was open, enveloping his head. As Ginny groaned in frustration but didn't move immediately, Harry found the whole thing entertaining and couldn't help his laughter.
Ginny sat up and back, her knees on either side of Harry's torso and her tush resting on Harry's thighs. “What is it, Harry? What's so funny?”
Harry quickly conquered his laughter, but his amusement was still clear on his face.
“I...well...I finally manage to stay upright in the floo, and you're there each time I do,” he smiled. “Okay, it doesn't make much sense, but it was funny to me. Besides, there are worse places than under your coat with my nose in your belly button.”
Ginny blinked and looked hard into his eyes, subconsciously rubbing her belly button through her shirt. After a moment a smile quirked her lips, which was followed closely by her breaking down into laughter of her own. Harry quickly joined her, laughing once again.
Around the pub, they garnered strange looks from the patrons and their family once they all made it through the floo.
“Alright you two,” Mrs. Weasley interrupted their good clean fun. “Enough lallygagging. You have a train to catch.”
Complying, they finished untangling themselves under the watchful and amused eyes of the rest of the pub, for once neither Harry nor Ginny caring what the others thought. With a wave to Tom, the pub keeper, they picked up their trunks and made their way out the door to Muggle London.
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