Harry leant heavily on his staff, favouring his aching left leg. For the briefest of times that night, while he’d been transformed into Tavi in fact, it hadn’t hurt at all. But then, thinking about it, the injury hadn’t hurt at all during the battle, only before and, most especially, after, now that the adrenaline had worn off.
To be truthful, it wasn’t just his leg that had Harry leaning so heavily on his staff. No, he was tired, bone-weary tired. He’d barely been asleep for an hour, maybe two at tops, when Dobby had woken him the night before. Then had come the intense, full night of getting ready for a battle, the battle itself to win back the Ministry of Magic and then the hours of searching, making sure that there were no moles hidden away anywhere.
In fact, there were still teams combing through the building. Up until the point when he and Sirius had been dispatched on this important task, the new owners of the Ministry of Magic building had found and detained nearly three dozen prisoners. In return, they’d found and released about half that number sitting in the Ministry’s holding cells on various trumped up charges.
“You sure this is going to work?” Harry asked.
Sirius simply shrugged, maintaining his stare at the great burnished bronze doors of Gringotts bank. The two of them had been there for just over half an hour now, waiting, trying to guess whether their presence had even been noted.
When they’d first arrived, Sirius had politely knocked and then had stepped back to stand beside Harry. After five minutes had passed, he’d stepped forward and knocked again. And once again after a further five minutes.
Sirius was just about due to knock for the eighth time when a small section of the great doors, just the right height for a goblin, swung inwards. The shadowy figure inside resolved itself into a very familiar figure as he stepped into the early morning light.
“Slipshard!” Harry greeted happily.
The wily old goblin looked Harry up and down, his eyes flicking to each wound or scar.
“You’ve gained yourself the look a goblin warrior would be proud of, Harry,” Slipshard stated before his gaze turned to Sirius. “You, however, look just as you always do.”
“Devilishly handsome and the envy of all who see me,” Sirius replied, raking a hand through his jet black hair.
Slipshard blinked at him and promptly ignored the comment altogether.
“You two are causing quite the stir inside,” Slipshard stated. “You do know that Gringotts is closed for the duration of your war, don’t you?”
“We know that you claim that to be true,” Harry stated slyly. “I have a knife back in my room that says otherwise.”
Slipshard gave the barest incline of his head in acknowledgement.
“We’d like to alter the contract that Amelia Bones and Algeron Croaker signed yesterday,” Sirius stated.
“Gringotts is not in the habit of altering contracts,” Slipshard stated with a frown.
“Not even if this benefits Gringotts?” Sirius asked.
“I find it hard to believe that this ‘alteration’ is solely for Gringotts’ supposed gain,” Slipshard replied.
Sirius barked with laughter. “And you’d be right. Look, we’ve got some more prisoners that we’d like Gringotts to hold in their dungeons for us.”
“Really?” Slipshard asked with a sceptically raised eyebrow. “And just where did you find these … individuals?”
“The Ministry of Magic,” Harry grinned. “We took it back from Riddle and his Death Eaters tonight.”
“In that case, I believe that an alteration can be allowed. For a price, of course,” the banker said, making a small gesture with his finger to someone unseen inside the bank.
“There is one other matter,” Sirius said.
Slipshard cocked his head, inviting the man to continue.
“The new Ministry of Magic would like to contract Gringotts to erect new wards on the building which includes the one that rejects anyone bearing the Dark Mark from entering,” Sirius said. “The Ministry is willing to pay whatever price you ask, within reason of course. It will also add the promise of a seat and voice on the Wizengamot once it resumes, guaranteed by the combined Most Ancient and Noble Houses of Bones, Black and Potter and the Ancient House of Peverell.”
Slipshard grinned toothily at the two of them.
“You do know how to drive an interesting negotiation,” he said. “While I am not authorised to agree to such a proposition, I can assure you that Gringotts shall give it all due consideration and inform you of our decision as soon as possible.”
“Please make it soon,” Harry pleaded. “We’re supposed to stay here until you give us an answer and you’ve no idea how tired I am right now.”
“I make no promises,” Slipshard said before turning and disappearing back into the great marble building, the door closing behind him.
“You’ll be missed, Algeron,” she whispered, her head bowed.
After adjusting the hood of his cloak so that his face was more properly shadowed, she gave his shoulder a final pat and stood. A precise wave of her wand conjured a plain white sheet in the middle of the air which she directed to cover his body.
Looking up and down the row of bodies alongside the wall, Amelia noted that each of the them had been treated with the same dignity and respect. A turn of her head showed her that the same couldn’t be said for the bodies on the opposite side of the Atrium.
It was there that the Ministry workers, the Death Eaters, that had opposed them and had died in the battle had been dumped. And it was a dumping. Those bodies lay every which way, more piled on top of each other than laid out neatly in a row. It was easy to see that any that had a covering had had it simply tossed on the body with a hope for the best.
With a sigh, Amelia shook her head. They may have been the enemy, but they were still human beings, people deserving of at least some respect in death.
Taking out her monocle, Amelia rubbed the bridge of her nose and her eyes. She was tired and in desperate need of sleep. Idly, she wondered if she could sneak off to her old office and catch an hour or so of rest, assuming that the cot that she kept there hadn’t been tossed by her ‘replacement’.
“Madam Bones?” a voice called and she turned, replacing her monocle as she did so.
“Yes?” she asked and instantly admonished herself; there was no need to let her weariness show through as irritation directed at her friends and allies.
“Sorry to bother you, Ma’am,” Tonks said, “but as the highest ranking Ministry Department Head here, I thought that I should bring this to your attention straight away.”
Amelia made a gesture for the young auror to get on with it.
“We caught a prisoner, Ma’am, one trying to access the building,” Tonks said.
“I take it this is someone important?” Amelia asked.
In response, Tonks waved her wand, dispelling the disillusionment spell that she’d placed on the short, squat toad-like woman wearing the pink cardigan trussed up and floating behind her.
“Well, hello there, Dolores,” Amelia smiled.
Umbridge’s mouth was moving rapidly up and down making the skin under her chin wobble but nary a sound could be heard through the silencing charm.
“I must inform you that you’ve been relieved of your post as Minister for Magic and that you will be standing trial on the charges of … well, let’s just say charges, and leave it at that; I’m in no mood to, nor do I have the time to, list every one of them to you right now,” Amelia stated.
“Umbridge!” a voice roared, echoing throughout the Atrium.
Amelia spun to see Arn, the bearded leader of the force from Diagon Alley storming his way towards them, wand in hand and a glower on his face fit to kill.
“You had my wife killed!” Arn yelled, stomping right up to the woman, spittle flying from his mouth. “She was the kindest, gentlest soul you ever met and you had her killed because she was a muggleborn! And my unborn child with her!”
Amelia barely had time to move before Arn’s wand was poked hard into Umbridge’s stomach, the former Minister’s face wincing with the pain.
“Bombarda!” Arn whispered.
Amelia’s stunner was just a fraction of a second late and both, Umbridge and Arn dropped to the floor almost simultaneously. One was clearly dead, a visible hole through her middle, the other, simply unconscious in the blood that he’d just spilled.
“Get this man into a holding cell,” Amelia ordered. “When he wakes up, inform him that he’s charged with the murder of Dolores Umbridge.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” a visibly sick-looking Tonks replied before flicking her wand at Arn to gather his wand to place into an evidence bag.
Amelia looked around and waved a couple of people over so that they could see about cleaning up the body and mess. Yes, the woman had done some truly terrible deeds and been responsible for many, many more. It was a given that she would have been convicted, even possibly sentenced to the Veil. In Amelia’s opinion, she probably even deserved to die, but not like that.
With the rush of adrenaline and the need for Law and Order to be re-established as quickly as possible, Amelia’s thoughts immediately abandoned any idea of rest or sleep. There was simply too much work to be done to indulge in luxuries like that.
A single knock on the open door was enough to have Amelia look up from the once pristine white wall that was now all but covered in writing. She let out a relieved smile at not only the sight of them, but also who they had with them.
“I take it our request was granted?” she asked without preamble.
“Yep,” Sirius replied, walking in and perching himself on the end of Amelia’s desk. “This is Gornock, he’s one of Gringott’s premier warders.”
“Nice to meet you,” Amelia nodded to the goblin. “How soon can you get to work and how quickly can you have our new wards up?”
Gornock held up a hand, his long fingers pointing to the roof.
“Before any warding can take place, the contract between Gringotts and the Ministry of Magic must be completed, agreed to and signed,” the goblin said.
Amelia looked between Sirius and Harry who had flopped into one of her chairs and now looked in danger of sliding out of it.
“I thought you two went to get all of these details sorted out?” she asked.
“Well, we did. In theory,” Sirius stated.
“What Sirius isn’t saying is that we managed to get a verbal agreement for the possibility of Gringotts providing a warding team to have the Ministry of Magic getting new, top class wards, including the anti-Dark Mark ward,” Harry clarified.
“Verbal? Possibility?” Amelia repeated. “Why do I suspect that you’re about to drop a bludger in my lap and give me a headache?”
“Because we are,” Sirius grinned.
“If we can get down to business?” Gornock asked, pulling a thick roll of parchment from his breast pocket.
Amelia left the wall that she’d been working on to join the goblin and Sirius at her desk.
“I did actually manage to get most of what we want worked out,” Sirius explained. “We only encountered problems when it came to signing. I can’t sign a thing, I’m not the Minister of Magic or a Department Head. And while I am on the Wizengamot, I haven’t been an active part of that body since it was recalled by Umbridge to push through the new laws that she wanted.
“And because I couldn’t sign anything, that meant that there were some details that also couldn’t be filled in. We managed to beat most of it out but it needs the proper representative in order to finish the job in an official capacity.”
Amelia stared at him.
“Officially, I’m not a Department Head either and I’m certainly not the Minister for Magic, not that there is one at the moment,” Amelia stated.
“Yeah, heard about what happened,” Harry said. “Can’t say I’m sorry about it either, not after the laws that she’d been pushing through.”
“Gringotts does not recognise the appointments of the Department Heads since the coup that occurred under the leadership of You-Know-Who,” Gornock stated. “That includes Dolores Umbridge as the Minister of Magic.”
“You don’t?” Amelia asked. “Then who do you recognise as being in charge?”
“To put it bluntly, you,” Gornock stated.
“Me?” a surprised and confused Amelia repeated.
“Of course. How else did you believe that the contract you signed only yesterday for Gringotts to house your prisoners was deemed legal?” Gornock asked. “With the previous Minister for Magic deceased and you being the most senior of the Department Heads still alive, Gringotts recognises you, Amelia Susan Bones, as being the Minister for Magic of Great Britain, pro tem.”
“Oh, Merlin!” Amelia breathed while Sirius let out a great barking laugh.
“Couldn’t think of anyone better,” Harry commented.
Amelia shot the two of them the darkest of looks.
“If you will examine these three specific sections,” Gornock said, unrolling the contract and pointing out the different places with his long fingers. “These are the types of wards that you are contracting Gringotts to erect, yes?”
After closing her eyes briefly at the suddenness of her elevation, Amelia looked over the list.
“Yes, that’s correct,” she said.
“And this is the correct building description and location?” Gornock clarified.
“You don’t think we should have Saint Mungo’s done as well while we’re at it?” Sirius asked. “Once we’ve made sure that there aren’t any DEs in there holding patients or Healers hostage, of course.”
“No,” Amelia said with a shake of her head. “The Directors would never go for it anyway. They are bound by oath to help heal anyone in need and having such a ward that prevents people from getting into the hospital would go against that oath.”
“Lastly, this is the sum that Gringotts will charge the Ministry of Magic for the work,” Gornock stated, indicating a rather large number near the bottom.
“I agree,” Amelia said after a cursory glance.
“Then if you would sign here?” Gornock asked, producing a quill and handing it to Amelia.
“When can you start and how long will it take to have those wards erected?” Amelia asked as she finished signing.
“I have three full warding teams in the Atrium and ready to start immediately – the urgency of the job is reflected in the price that Gringotts is charging you. If all goes well, we should be done within two days,” Gornock stated.
“Thank you,” Amelia said with a small bow. “I will have Senior Auror Shacklebolt escort you back down to the Atrium.”
“So, what is all this, Am?” Sirius asked with a wave of his hand at the wall, after the goblin had departed the office.
Amelia crossed the room back to the wall that she’d been writing on before the interruption.
“Thoughts and ideas to get this country back up and running again the way that it should be,” Amelia replied.
“And you needed an entire wall to get it all down?” Sirius asked.
“It was taking too much parchment,” Amelia shrugged. “Besides, this way I can cross-reference different ideas much more easily and effectively.”
Sirius took a few minutes to read over the lists that appeared there, taking note of the way that some were highlighted a different colour while others were joined together by lines.
Many were incredibly obvious and extremely important – these Amelia had highlighted in red: secure Saint Mungo’s from Death Eater influence; get the people of Hogsmeade to safety, up to and including abandoning the town if need be; clean out Knockturn Alley; and take Hogwarts from Riddle (this one was even circled).
There were others that appeared to be important and somewhat urgent, including reforming the Wizengamot completely, not the half-hearted way that Umbridge had used it; have a Chief Warlock appointed; hold elections to elect a new Minster for Magic; appoint Department Heads; and getting the various departments back up and running again, specifically the DMLE and Floo Regulation.
Off to one side, written is blue, appeared to be ideas that could be implemented while Magical Britain was being put back together again after the defeat of Riddle. As well as ensuring that a representative from the Goblins was placed on the Wizengamot (to keep Amelia’s and their promise), she’d written down the idea of having a representative from the centaurs, dwarves, merpeople and werewolves as well.
Updating Hogwarts so that it could once more be considered one of the best magical schools in the world was written at the bottom.
Sirius whistled appreciatively at what he was seeing.
“I’d say we’ve already got the right Minister for Magic appointed,” he said.
“I’m only doing the job because someone has to,” Amelia replied quickly. “As soon as we can hold elections, I’m handing it over to whatever sucker gets lumped with the job.”
“Sorry to tell you this, but after seeing all of that,” Sirius said, waving at the board, “my vote’s going straight to you. And I’ll be telling everyone else to do the same.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Amelia hissed.
Noting Harry all but asleep in the chair and in danger of sliding out of it, Sirius took the chance to change topics.
“I think I better get him to bed. As it is, there’s going to be a host of annoyed people waiting for us once they realise that we disappeared in the middle of the night without telling them and have yet to come home,” Sirius stated.
Walking over, Sirius knelt beside the chair and gave Harry’s shoulder a gentle nudge.
“Come on, Pup, let’s get you home,” he said.
Harry’s groggy face merely nodded before he pushed himself upright, slipping sidewards as he tried to use a non-existent left hand. Thankfully, Sirius was instantly there to catch him and put an arm around him.
“We’ll see you later, Am.” Sirius said as the two headed for the door.
Amelia gave the two a nod before turning back to her wall, eager to add her new thoughts to it.
“Report!” Voldemort snapped.
“My Lord, I regret to inform you that we could find no one,” Lucius stated, having dropped to his knees, his head near the floor in terror at the failure.
Voldemort stared at the man.
“No one? You expect me to believe that not a single witch or wizard, elderly or child could be found in the entirety of Hogsmeade?” he asked.
“I am sorry, my Lord,” Lucius said before rushing on. “We searched every building, every room. They’re all completely gone; most of their belongings with them.”
“And where would they have gone?” he asked, a question that had no need to be answered.
With the fall of firstly Diagon Alley and then the Ministry of Magic itself, word had filtered to him that Bones, Black and Potter had worked to solidify their hold, just as he, himself would have done in their place. Saint Mungo’s was secured against them and much of Knockturn Alley had been cleaned out as well. The only glimmer of good news was that that infernal Unspeakable had been killed in the process.
“Bellatrix, your arm,” he ordered.
Instantly his most devoted follower was by his side, her arm extending as she pushed the sleeve aside to reveal the pulsating, writhing form of the skull and snake that made up the Dark Mark. Extending a single finger, Voldemort pushed his magic into the Mark, calling each and every one of his Death Eaters to his side.
For most, what he was doing would result in excruciating pain; for Bellatrix, though, it only elicited a slight tightening around her eyes and a wide smile, even as her head was thrown back in what looked to be pleasure.
Looking around the room, Voldemort noted that most of those present grasped their arms as they felt the Mark burn. He still had dozens of wizards and witches at his disposal, not to mention the werewolves and other dark creatures but there should have been more.
The number before him should be double what it was, if not for Potter, Black and Bones. Each and every one of his losses, had resulted in the depletion of his forces. And now, now he was trapped behind the mighty wards of the ancient castle, his last place of safety.
What once was his crowning jewel had just become his prison, a prison that he was loath to leave, especially with his horcruxes all but certainly now gone.