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Chapter 26 : When Was The Last Time You Pretended?
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Overall it was not a particularly pleasant or welcome start to my visit to the Ministry of Magic. After waiting several minutes for the same series of spells to be performed upon Professor McGonagall we made our way over to the visitor's desk to collect our name badges and present our wands. The tired looking witch gave me a nervous smile when I told her my name before handing me a name badge which read 'Hermione Granger – Hearing' I looked over at Professor McGonagall's which simply read 'Minerva McGonagall – Hearing' it looked rather strange seeing her full name upon a name badge, for some absurd reason I had expected them to place Professor McGonagall upon the badge which actually made no sense at all in hindsight. We wandered quickly to the wizard standing quite alertly behind a desk which sat beneath a large brass sign reading 'Security'. It became clear that this one wizard was once considered appropriate security for the entire Ministry however he had obviously recently lost his job to hordes of security wizards in the front entrance.
He held out a hand and I passed him my wand which he placed atop a strange brass instrument which looked an awful lot like a broken scale. Broken merely because it only contained a single brass tray as opposed to two. After several moments a thin strip of paper shot out of a small slit in the bass of the instrument which the wizard who evidentially was named Eric, according to his name badge grabbed and read aloud to us.
"Vine Wood 10¾ Inches Dragon Heartstring Core, been in use for seven years am I correct?" He asked.
"That's correct." I replied taking my wand back from him and wandering to look at the nearby statue whilst Professor McGonagall had her wand examined also.
The golden fountain that I remembered from my visit during our fifth year was completely gone. By the looks of it melted down to produce other objects and replaced by this ghastly statue made of a dark black stone which had been polished to a standard one could see themselves in. Atop two strange looking thrones sat two crowned figures one a wizard and one a witch, it did not take long for one to realise that these strange thrones were made of people, naked, struggling figures that the two grand magical figures sat upon. I stood there in shock horror as I read the large engraving: Magic is Might in foot high letters adorning the bottom of the repulsive statue which bore down upon all entering the large open foyer. The fountain used to bring so much light to the room, the statue made it seem darker, less magical as though its very presence was sucking the life away from the room.
I felt a warm hand grasp my shoulder as I continued to stare at the statue almost as though it were mesmerising. This was what I was up against; the thoughts and direction the Ministry seemed to be heading towards or at least attempting to head in. The statue made me feel sick to my stomach, the thought that the people being crawled over by the wizards were like my parents, the good, hard working, decent people who raised me. The only difference between them and the wizards being their lack of magical ability, a very small difference considering all the other possibilities. It almost as though they were making the muggles out to be servants, or even worse unworthy of any form of respect. It seemed out of place in the Ministry of Magic which should be working towards harmony between the magical and non-magical communities.
"Come on, enough time has been spent dwelling over the atrocity that is this statue." Professor McGonagall whispered to me.
"It is almost too difficult to believe that only last year a golden statue representing harmony and peace between both magical and non-magical communities stood here. Now look, look at what it has been replaced with. It is the complete opposite."
"I know, but we have to learn to pretend this does not bother us. As though we do not mind such a hideous monstrosity gracing the presence of the foyer to our Ministry. We must for the sake of remaining inconspicuous pretend that we don't mind. It may not seem right or fair but very little in today's society is, and the faster we can come to accept such a terrible truth, the sooner we can begin slowly learning to deal with it in our own ways."
"I guess, it just seems so unjust and strange that anyone would even allow it to be placed here." I replied.
"Hermione do you really think they allowed anyone who opposed the placement of this statue to remain in their job let alone alive?" She asked quietly leading me away from the statue towards the golden archways that led to the room containing the elevators in the corner of the foyer.
It seemed as though we had arrived at the wrong time of the morning for traffic at the Ministry, there were a large number of people moving in all directions through the foyer, it was almost a mad rush to the elevators as they were all filling rather quickly. It seemed even on weekends there was much work to be done for a Ministry employee. Some carried the most strange items, caged animals and boxes filled with papers which seemed to be flying off with any slight disturbance in the air. I also noticed the strange paper plane like objects soaring through the air, I remembered these Harry had described these after his hearing. Interdepartmental Memos I recalled looking up at the strange purple levitating planes, each had an addressee and a small stamp bearing: The Ministry of Magic – Magic Is Might.
Even in the most dark of times it seemed as though it was business as usual for the Ministry, although I thought to myself that it was them causing half the grief these days. It was really no secret to the Order, or anyone who had been associated with the Order that the Ministry was under the control of Lord Voldemort. Pius Thicknesse was merely a puppet in Lord Voldemort's game. I stood speechlessly in the elevator, barely sure that I was going to be capable of speech once I reached the Court Room, I was informed soon after we pushed our way into one of the elevator's that I was to attend my hearing in Courtroom Ten, this of course was the very same courtroom in which Harry's hearing two year ago had taken place in. I could still remember him spilling out the details after his return, no matter how long ago those times seemed - When we were planning to stop Voldemort's initial movements, as opposed to fully formed plans.
"Level Nine – The Department of Mysteries and Courtrooms One through to Ten." A cool female voice informed us as the golden gates of the elevator slid open quickly revealing the dark tiled corridor I remembered from two years ago.
We walked in silence along the corridor before reaching a door that indicated that it was Courtroom Ten. I took a deep breath reaching out for the door and slowly pulled it open walking into the cold stone room. My footsteps echoed uncomfortably as I walked quickly down to the centre of the room, watching as Professor McGonagall took her seat in the surrounding area. I felt alone and rather helpless as Dolores Umbridge surveyed me from behind a large wooden bench directly in front of me. She had barely changed, her hair was the same as ever, and she was wearing her usual hideous shade of pink, this time in a rather elaborate set of robes which were visible beneath her black robe. You could see the look of self importance in her eyes, that she was actually enjoying this.
"Would Hermione Jean Granger please rise." She said in her unnaturally high, girlish voice.
I slowly got to my feet staring up at the podium where behind Umbridge sat an array of stern looking witches and wizards, each adorned in similar black robes. In the corner sat Percy Weasley, who had evidentially been employed as a scribe today. I took a deep breath to calm myself.
"You are Hermione Jean Granger are you not?" She asked.
"Yes, I am."
"You are eighteen years old are you not?" She asked.
"Yes I am, I turned eighteen on the nineteen of the month just gone." I replied remembering that I was not even conscious for my own Birthday, I however had spent it unconscious and alone in a bed in the Hospital Wing following the incident in the Dark Arts class, it was not much of a birthday, no-one had remembered anyway.
She continued to question me on every aspect of my life, from where I had lived to my academic achievements and scores on exams, as though poor scores would be the proof they needed that I was a Muggleborn. Some were however shocked when I repeated several of my scores, and my O.W.L results, which I hoped brought some of them to the belief that perhaps I may have been Pureblood and that this was simply a mistake. She asked several times as to why I had not answered their summons, however I admitted, being the complete truth that I had failed to receive any of them. The questioning barely stopped for a minute and it seemed as though my voice was beginning to waver under the pressure of so many questions, she finally reached her series of questions relating to my parentage almost fifty minutes later according to the large clock behind her.
"You're biological parents are Mr. Christopher Granger and Mrs. Jean Granger, is this correct?" She asked.
"No, that is incorrect." I said praying that my lie would come naturally to me as it had in Professor McGonagall's office. "Neither are biological parents." I confirmed to several gasps and whispers from around me.
"Is that so?" She asked leaning forward slightly as though in interest.
"My Father according to my birth certificate was Sirius Black and my Mother Julia Black." I lied praying that I was not insulting his memory - he was such a Fatherly figure to Harry and seemed like such a perfect choice for my 'Father', "He and my mother were briefly married before her death just after my birth in nineteen seventy nine. I was entrusted to my Aunt and Uncle, Jean and Christopher Granger who raised me as their own, as they were unable to have children of their own."
"Is that so, do you have proof of these claims?" She asked.
"I only have the birth, death and adoption certificates which we were able to obtain through the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry that the Muggle community uses. We are unable to find to find record of their marriage as it was a wizarding union and much of the information and files that contained any important information on Sirius were destroyed after his death two years ago." I said pulling the small certificate from my pocket, Professor McGonagall had handed it to me last night having gone to great lengths to obtain it and wipe the memories of those who had written to it so that they no longer had any memory of any different names or parents.
Percy Weasley walked down and collected the documents from me before taking his seat once again. It may have been simply nerves but I could barely say that the hearing was going according to plan; however I believed it to be merely the presence of Dolores Umbridge that seemed to have me on edge.
"Weasley are the certificates authentic?" She snapped.
"Yes Miss, I cannot fault the certificates." He replied after scrutinising it and placing several charms upon it.
I breathed a concealed sigh of relief, there would be no reason to find a fault with the document, of course it was official, and it had been amended by officials. There was of course nothing we had faked other than the details behind the names upon the certificate. If they dared to search deep enough they would find that Julia Black had actually existed she was in fact my grandmother who had died a month after my birth, however we had also seen to this and had ensured that it had been changed to reflect that she was my mother and not my grandmother. We had replaced my Grandmother with a distant relative who had died many years ago and had not married nor had children. I swore when this was over this mess would be another of the things I would correct. I would bring my parents home and remove the memory charm, I would then correct the mess I had made of the official documentation regarding my family tree.
"Where are your Aunt and Uncle currently?" She asked.
"They are missing presumed dead. They were on one of the flights that went down at the start of the year during the bad weather."
"You must miss them terribly." She noted.
"I miss them more than words could say." I whispered in response several tears falling from my eyes and rolling softly down my cheeks, I was slowly losing my composure speaking of my parents only brought me feelings of guilt and sadness.
"What other information could you give us on your Father?" She asked as though she did not matter that I was clearly trying to bring myself together, to gain some form of composure once again.
"He had a brother Regulus Black who died the year of my birth; they were the two sons of Orion Black who died the year of my birth also and Walburga Black. I never met her either. I never met any of my wizarding relatives; I was brought up practically in the same way a Muggleborn would be when really I am not."
"Due to this unforseen mishap in information regarding your parentage, would you please confirm for the entire Court to hear your Blood Status."
"I am Half-Blood, my Mother was a muggle, and my Father was a Pureblood wizard from one of the oldest wizarding lines."
"Yes, and clearly they were not good at preserving this, they were among the first to die out." Commented an elderly looking wizard in from behind Umbridge, "I do believe in my time I have heard many a rumour that the Blacks had married muggles, Andromeda Black married a Muggleborn which is almost as almost as bad as marrying a muggle!"
"Hear, hear!" Cried several wizards from around the room.
"Does anyone within the room have any reason to fault Miss. Granger?" A stern looking witch from behind Umbridge ask, her grey hair shimmered pleasantly in the dim lighting. "Personally I see that this could go on all day, and we would still be unable to find a fault in this girls claims. It is clear that if one of her parents was a wizard and one was a muggle and she has inherited some magical talent – she is not a Muggleborn. We can all see this. It makes no sense at all to continue questioning her when we have sufficient enough evidence – records from her birth that support that both her biological Mother and Father are who she claims they were. If we cannot fault these documents would someone please explain why we continue to waste both our precious time and resources upon questioning someone who is clearly not a Muggleborn and therefore does not fall to our department?"
There was a brief lull, "All for the return of Miss Granger to Hogwarts please raise your hand and say I." The woman said raising her own hand, I watched as slowly more than half those present in the room raised their hands and repeated the single, glorious word: "I" Glancing around I noticed even Percy Weasley had his hand raised, my heart soared, I might actually make it back.
"All those opposed?" The witch asked, and the four remaining witches who had not raised their hands placed theirs into the air. The witch paused before speaking once again, "It is clear that it is the belief of the Court that Hermione Jean Granger is to be freed immediately and returned to Hogwarts, Miss Granger you are free to go."
"Wait!" Umbridge cried before turning her gaze to me, "She could be lying to us all."
The witch once again spoke on my behalf, I was grateful I did not have to retaliate to her claims. "I doubt even someone of her apparent intellect could have fabricated such documents nor could she have conjured such a story from the top of her head!"
"She is intelligent, she very well could have." Umbridge cried pointing desperately at me.
Several of the witches and wizards begun to shake their heads in disgust at Umbridge's outburst, the look on her face indicated that she was worried. She was losing the respect of her fellow Ministry Employees. "What is it we have become?" The witch asked, "When we spend almost an hour and a half of our precious time, time which could be used searching for Harry Potter and other persons of interest upon a hearing which seems to me and nearly everyone present to be a complete waste of time? Does it not show our complete failure in the area of keeping to the task at hand?"
"I cannot argue with this logic." Umbridge sighed in defeat, before replacing her almost sad voice with her high pitched girlish voice when speaking to me, "Miss Granger, you are free to go."
I got to my feet, I noticed the witch who had so bravely defended me rise also, from a distance I could swear I saw her wink at me. "Thank you, I am glad you have seen reason, I apologise for taking so very much of your time today."
I felt Professor McGonagall's presence at my side as we walked slowly from the Court Room, we did not celebrate nor make any indication that we had won something important. We remained silent, in case the eyes of the Ministry were still upon us and one false move could land us back in the Court Room. We walked quietly to the Apparition point, where for some reason Professor McGonagall stopped, I turned noticing this just in time to see her stumble. I quickly moved towards the place in which she stumbled, which was almost shocking, I had never seen her trip or fall before, although I reminded myself she was only human. She outstretched a hand to me which I took, sending us tumbling through open air and onto the familiar doorstep of Number Twelve Grimmuld Place. I turned to face her in shock; she was standing once again as though nothing had happened.
"Why are we here?" I asked.
"It was a necessary change of direction I assure you." Was all she said leaning forward and knocking on the door.
I watched as slowly the door opened, revealing the dark corridor behind it. Slowly a figure from behind the door revealed themselves and all I could do was gasp, I could not even pretend that this did not shock me, as it was truly the most magical moment I had experienced in weeks.
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