Note: Thank you to Inachis and Hawklan for fixing this chapter up.
(Ministry of Magic)
Cornelius Fudge and the entire Wizengamot sat in silence, as Albus Dumbledore and the team who had accompanied him to Azkaban, bar Tonks who had refused to go, made their report. The scenes describes were right out of a nightmare, a nightmare of times best forgotten. However even Fudge could not deny the evidence at hand. The whole prison had been turned into a slaughter house. The guards had all been butchered and then skinned and hung out like clothes set to dry. Photos of what had been found were placed before every member of the government body and not one of them could deny what was being said. Lucius Malfoy sat near the back with the rest of the supporters of the Dark Lord, watching as fear spread through the government just as their Master had predicted.
“Who is responsible for this carnage?” Thomas Abbott demanded to know, the first to recover himself.
“I have already stated before this body that we face a renewed danger from Lord Voldemort. You have so far ignored this and started to question my sanity,” Dumbledore responded with a glare at Fudge, who glared back. He also ignored the usual response people gave when he said the Dark Lord’s name. He had grew tired of it and usually ignored it. “I know you question my belief in the tale told by Harry Potter when he returned from where the illegal portkey took him and Cedric Diggory,” he continued. “However I do not doubt that tale. Voldemort is a wizard of great power and if anyone was to find a way to cheat death, it would be him,” he stated coldly. “If we are to present a united front to this danger, which is growing daily while you continue to ignore it, then we must find a way to verify who is behind it, one way or the other,” he concluded.
“And how do you expect us to do this Dumbledore?” Delores Umbridge inquired with a look that clearly stated she believed the old man had lost his mind.
“It is quite simple. When Harry Potter is found, he will be brought before this body and questioned under Veritaserum so the full truth can finally be known,” Dumbledore answered, knowing he was walking a tight rope here.
Fudge grinned as he heard this because he was sure the tale was false. Maybe Dumbledore expected them to use a supply of Veritaserum from Hogwarts. A supply they would clearly tamper with so the boy could continue to lie. No, he would accept this and ensure Bones used only Ministry accepted Veritaserum. That way there was no way the boy could lie, he would catch the old fool and his tool in the act right in front of the Wizengamot. It would be all he would need to remove Dumbledore from the school and replace him with Umbridge right off the bat. The old fool couldn’t have given him a better chance at destroying whatever remained of his reputation.
“Very well Albus, if you want to expose your madness before this body then who am I to stop you?” Fudge finally spoke. “Once you have found the missing Potter, you will bring him before us where he will be questioned under Veritaserum from the Ministry and we will finally put to an end this nonsense about the supposed return of He Who Must Not Be Named,” he crowed in delight, something that was not missed by anyone.
“If I may Minister,” Malfoy spoke up, unnerved by what had just been agreed to, as it would mean the exposure of the Dark Lord’s actual return. “How do we know Potter cannot fight of the effects of Veritaserum?” he inquired. “We do know a strong subject can indeed fight off the effects as we found out during the war,” he reminded them.
“My colleague raises a good point,” Neil Parkinson agreed as he too stood. “This boy has long been hidden from this world, kept from our eyes by the actions of Dumbledore,” he pointed out. “How do we know he hasn’t been secretly training Potter for reasons we do not yet know, training that may include how to beat things like Veritaserum,” he finished.
Dumbledore snorted in disgust. “That is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard. The boy was hidden to ensure his safety from the remaining Death Eaters who managed to stay hidden within our mists,” he explained. “And we do know some escaped our efforts to find them. They showed themselves at the Quidditch World cup as you will all recall,” he reminded them. “Had the boy remained in our world and visible, I have no doubt he would never have lived to attend Hogwarts and we would have lost another ancient family to the madness Voldemort unleashed on us all,” he stated coldly as he looked around the room.
“I agree with Albus,” Amelia Bones said as she stood up. “Had Potter remained in the open, he would have been an easy target and long since killed,” she agreed. “I also find it hard to believe Albus would train a teenager in such ways as Mr. Parkinson suggests. What possible use could the boy be to him and to what end?” she asked with a shake of her head. “I have stayed silent during the Minister’s tirades against what he says is rumor mongering. He suggests Albus is trying to cause panic and again I ask, to what end?” she continued. “Albus has served this body longer than any other person here, he destroyed the previous Dark Lord and was a big reason why we didn’t succumb to He Who Most Not Be Named during the war,” she reminded them all in a heated voice.
“I do not think for a minute he would try to cause panic for no reason. We must take his warning seriously and ensure there is no possibility that the Dark Lord could return. For if he did, we would be hard pressed to fight him,” she stated. “That is our duty here to the people, no matter our private thoughts on the matter,” she finished before sitting down again.
Amelia’s impassioned speech gained a multitude of support from most of the Wizengamot. Fudge could see Bones had rallied enough support to ensure an investigation into Dumbledore’s claims would be carried out, including the questioning of Potter. That was not what he had wanted, but at least both Potter and Dumbledore would be disgraced when the boy was questioned with Veritaserum, which would have to suffice for now.
“Very well Madam Bones, I will allow you to ascertain the truth of Dumbledore’s allegations with a full investigation. However, I feel the truth will reveal itself when the boy is questioned,” Fudge conceded.
Umbridge beside him scowled as her hated enemy. Amelia Bones rallied the majority of the Wizengamot to support an investigation into the possible return of the Dark Lord. That might get in the way of her continued rise to power. She had used Fudge for all he was worth. This included getting herself placed at Hogwarts, a suggestion Fudge had leapt at when she mentioned it to him. This sudden twist felt like a bad move on Fudge’s part, not that she was surprised by his stupidity as he usually made bad calls. Fudge was the kind of man who was easily swayed by the strongest person in the room, or at least the one who had the popular backing to make him look good. Bones was well known for having the backing of her people, she had lasted as head of the Department of Law Enforcement because she was well liked by the people.
Umbridge had hated Bones for being so well liked as those same people hated her with the same passion with which they adored Bones. Now she was purposely getting in the way of her own plans for power. But there was little she could do now. Hopefully the Potter brat was lying about the return of the Dark Lord. If not, then maybe she could work that to her advantage somehow. She would have to think carefully on that and see what she could work out.
“Before we dismiss this meeting I order an increase in Auror recruitment and placement in all important areas of Wizarding Britain,” Fudge ordered, realizing he had to be seen taking some action in response to the breakout. “With so many of the Dark Lord’s most ardent follows loose, we need to ensure the people’s safety,” he added.
“If I may, what if, unlike Dumbledore’s suggestion that the Dark Lord is behind this - as I don’t believe for a minute any man can return from death -” Lucius said standing once more. “What if this is the work of Sirius Black, a man who has already escaped Azkaban?” he suggested with a cold smirk which he quickly hid although it was seen by Dumbledore.
“Sirius Black has neither the power nor the imagination to earn the loyalty of demons Lucius, as you should realize,” Dumbledore responded with a slight sigh as Malfoy tried to direct things towards Sirius. “It takes a powerful wizard to earn their loyalty as it was when they served Grindelwald. I saw firsthand their handy work and I also saw how difficult it was for Grindelwald to control them at the time,” he informed them all. “Sirius Black would be killed by demons for trying to gain their help. He is a mediocre wizard at best who has been in prison for the majority of his adult life,” he reminded them.
“Then perhaps another is behind this breakout,” Lucius easily shot back. “Anything is more believable than the return of a dead man, even one as evil and powerful as He Who Must Not Be Named,” he stated before sitting back down.
“Either way I’m certain Amelia will find the answers,” Fudge cut in, eager to be out of the room and back in his office. “Now I declare this meeting concluded,” he added before he got up and left, quickly followed by Umbridge.
Dumbledore let out a relieved sigh that he had managed to box Fudge into a choice that would be his downfall. He was also relieved that he had managed to stop Malfoy from turning the whole thing onto Sirius’s shoulders. Having the Ministry focusing on him would be a disaster right now. They had to start taking steps to counter Voldemort before it was too late. Now thanks to this meeting Amelia would have more people to field in case of attacks. Of course she needed to train the new recruits first. He noted Amelia coming towards him and he quickly put on a thankful look, and he was thankful that she had stood up for all this.
“That was far too close Albus. Now I don’t know what exactly is going on, but if there is even a sliver of a chance that the snake is back then I want to know about it,” Amelia told him immediately. “That bastard killed nearly my entire family bar my niece Susan. I will not allow him to kill on such a scale again,” she added heatedly. “Now you say Potter is missing. Why wasn’t I notified?” she demanded to know as they walked towards her office. They kept their voices low so they wouldn’t be overheard.
“I feared if it was known to the general public it might cause panic on our side, as well as alert Voldemort to the fact and thus give him a chance to find and kill Harry before we can get him back to a safe place,” Dumbledore explained, having been surprised that no one, not even Fudge, had blinked at the fact the boy was missing.
“I take it you have your own people looking for him?” Amelia inquired as they reached her office and she quickly locked the door and placed some anti-listening spells down.
“I do, but so far no luck although we have had contact with Harry,” Dumbledore responded with a small smile and his usual twinkle in his eye. “In fact it was his warning that alerted us to Voldemort’s alliance with the demons,” he stated. “However I’m afraid to say I didn’t pass it on because I knew Fudge would ignore it and use it as more leverage to remove me from my last post as he has done with my other posts,” he admitted, knowing the best way to sway Amelia into working with him was the truth or as close to the truth as he could get.
Amelia went red in the face when she realized the slaughter at the prison might have been stopped, or at least the casualties might not have been so bad. With great effort she forced down her anger and immediate response. She had to admit Fudge would never have taken Dumbledore’s warning to heart, especially as it came from Harry Potter. Finally slumping to her chair she thought long and hard how to respond. Dumbledore sat in front of her desk and waited knowing he could not rush her.
Voldemort watched as Bellatrix and the others were seen to. Many of them were in very bad shape and it would take time for them to heal as Lucius had stated back in the prison. It was frustrating, but he supposed he shouldn’t be too surprised. They had been in the deepest cells in Azkaban for close to fifteen years. It was bound to have repercussions, just as his time as a wraith had an effect on him although he kept that fact a secret.
Turning away he headed back to his room. He needed to clear his head as well as think about this link that connected him to Potter. He needed to break it and fast, but first to discover how it had been created he might need to take a trip down memory lane. To the darkest day in his life, the day his body had been destroyed by a mere infant and his destiny had been cruelly ripped from his grasp.
(Halliwell Manor, San Francisco)
Harry woke up feeling drained and sluggish after the previous night. The memory of what he had witnessed was still very fresh in his mind. That damn link he had with Voldemort was really beginning to get annoying. There had to be a way to break it, because he didn’t want to see any more of that man’s actions. Slowly he made his way to the bathroom and had a quick shower and relieved himself. He hoped today would be a better day. First thing though he had to check in with Sirius and see what had happened with his warning. The old twit better had taken it seriously. Once he had made it downstairs he joined the others in the kitchen for breakfast. He did his best to ignore the worried looks his cousins shot him, so he guessed they had filled Phoebe in on what had occurred the night before.
He quickly noticed the growing tension between Xander and Faith was still very much present. He wondered how two people supposedly in love could begin to fall apart so quickly. It made him think again on his possible romance with Fleur. His conversation with his mother on the subject had made him actually think it was possible now. But he was wary of it all blowing up in his face, like it seemed to be doing with Xander and Faith. He quickly finished his breakfast and then went to the living room with the mirror he had brought down with him.
“Sirius can you hear me?” he said into the mirror.
(12 Grimmauld Place, London)
Sirius Black sat next to his still very disturbed cousin. Tonks had come back from Azkaban with the others in tears and had been sick once or twice during the night. The descriptions Tonks and the others had given of what they had found were disturbing in the extreme, it had proved Harry correct in his warning about the demons. This morning Dumbledore and the majority of his team who had gone with him to Azkaban had left for an important meeting with the Wizengamot. However Tonks had refused to go, still very much upset over the things she had witnessed in the prison. For most of the night he and Narcissa had sat with her and tried to keep her calm, her nightmares kept her up most of the night.
It had struck Sirius right at that moment that the Black Family was slowly coming back together under a new path. Andromeda was on her way to see her daughter and have her first face to face with her sister Narcissa in years. At that point there would be four members of the family under the same roof, and on the same side of the great divide of their world. Bellatrix he knew would never return from the darkness that had claimed her life. She was lost, but he sometimes remembered the young bright girl she had once been. Still, he should be happy he had reclaimed Narcissa and even Draco from the darkness. Yes, he would make the Black name mean something again instead of being a by word for hatred and evil. He was startled when he heard Harry’s voice. Glancing down at the mirror on the side table he quickly picked it up.
“Yes Harry, I’m here and so are Tonks and Narcissa,” Sirius told his godson and then frowned when he got a good look at how Harry looked. “Looks like Tonks wasn’t the only one to have a rough night?” he mused.
“No, I didn’t have a good night, I saw everything that happened at Azkaban and I do mean everything,” Harry admitted with a sigh and a dark look in his eyes that told Sirius he didn’t want to know. “My link with Voldemort is becoming more and more of a problem,” Harry stated with a troubled look, replacing the tired one he had been wearing.
“Tonks and the others told us what they found at the prison Harry. It affected Tonks so badly she refused to go the Ministry to report alongside the others who went with Dumbledore,” Sirius admitted as he ran a hand through his hair and glanced at his cousin who was listening along with Narcissa to what was being said.
“I can understand why it got to her and there is no shame in her refusing to go,” Harry assured him and Sirius noted Tonks smiled a little at hearing what Harry said, which relieved him. “I called to ask to find out if the old man took my warning seriously?” he asked.
“He did Harry, but he didn’t warn the Ministry because he knew Fudge wouldn’t take it seriously,” Sirius admitted with a sigh. “Granted he could have taken it to someone else, anyone really, to warn them of what was coming, but more than likely it would have been too late to do much about it except maybe minimize the deaths involved,” he told his godson.
Harry scowled as Sirius responded to his question. He guessed he shouldn’t be too surprised by this and he did have to admit it was unlikely Fudge would have listened to the warning. Since the end of forth year his relationship with the Minister had gone downhill fast, he doubted things had improved since he had left Hogwarts. But on the other hand he agreed with Sirius that the old man could have gone to someone else in the Ministry with the warning. Someone in there would have listened or at least he hoped they would have.
“There is nothing else that could have been done Harry, so don’t beat yourself up about it,” Sirius advised him. “Dumbledore wants you to come back and soon, he is getting very insistent on this point. He especially didn’t like the fact you promised not to return if he didn’t take your warning to heart,” he warned him. “I would expect if you do return, he will not be pleasant,” he stated.
“As if I could give a damn,” Harry spat back. “He can be as nasty as he wants to be Sirius, I know he’s not my ally and I’ll be very careful around him when I do come back,” he promised.
“And when will that be Harry?” Narcissa inquired, leaning over Sirius’s shoulder. “Things here are uncertain and a powder keg waiting to explode,” she told him. “Your return might help stabilize things or at least calm things down so we can finally get to grips with what it is Dumbledore is really doing,” she advised.
Harry paused because this was his first time speaking with the woman who had only a week ago been the wife of Lucius and was the mother of Draco Malfoy. Both had been two of his more dangerous adversaries beyond Voldemort. Granted, Draco was far easier to handle than his father, but you still had to keep an eye on the guy or he would catch you off guard. Now according to Sirius, Draco and Narcissa had turned their backs on Lucius and had sworn magical binding oaths that they stood with them against Voldemort and all who served him. Draco would be one of his few real allies in the next school year, and that was a disturbing truth to get used to. ‘How quickly things change,’ he thought with a rueful shake of his head before growing serious again.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back, but it will be soon. I can’t leave things like this for too much longer,” Harry finally responded. “I’ll get back to you on that. Just keep an eye on things and watch your backs,” he told them before he signed off.
Sirius let out a frustrated sigh, wishing that Harry would come back, but he was also relieved his godson wasn’t here as he was still unsure what Dumbledore planned to do with him. The whole thing was messed up, and he had no idea how it was all going to turn out.
Cole Turner watched as the Triad thought over everything he had told them about the attack on the prison. They paid close attention to what he had said about Voldemort’s actions and had come to the conclusion that this particular Dark Lord was not completely in control of himself. Perhaps his time as a wraith had unbalanced him somewhat. Who knew what kind of effects having your body destroyed might have on a person?
“We think it’s clear this Dark Lord will have to be watched carefully,” the head Triad member stated coldly. “He is not to be trusted, he’s unhinged,” he added.
“And dangerous. If he shows the slightest hint of betrayal, you will kill him,” one of the other Triad members stated.
Cole chuckled harshly. “Of course he intends to betray us once we have served his purpose, but then we always intended to kill him anyway once he has served our purpose. So what does it matter?” he told them. “Either way he will die, but using him to kill the Charmed Ones must take priority. So let him try and betray us when he can do little to actually harm us,” he reminded them with confidence.
“Your confidence is pleasing but somewhat misguided Balthazar. Magic in any form can be dangerous even to us, especially if wielded by a powerful wizard or witch,” the head Triad member stated in an even colder tone. “And this Dark Lord no matter if he is unhinged or not, is powerful. So watch him carefully or you will forfeit your father’s soul forever,” he warned before they vanished.
Cole growled at the threat before he turned and stormed out of the chamber. One day he vowed, he would kill the Triad, but only once he had his father’s soul in his hands.
(Halliwell Manor, San Francisco)
Xander stared out of the window of his room and wondered for the tenth time if coming here might have been a mistake. His relationship with Faith was failing fast and he didn’t know how to salvage it. What had seemed like the only way to find answers to how he and Janna had become bonded, and more important how the trinity spell Amy and the others had done had revived Janna from death, had quickly added to the problems because of the presence of Prue Halliwell. He had quickly developed an attraction to the elder sister and Faith had quickly taken notice of it. This combined with the situation with Janna had put his relationship on a knife edge. Soon a choice would have to be made and he had no idea what his choice would be. Nothing was certain anymore. He ran a distracted hand through his hair and prayed he would make the right choice, if there even was one.