Chapter 29 : The Innocent Prisoner
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The combination of the cold rain, a deep bellow from Hagrid and a shard of rock that flew by his head was enough to bring Harry back to his senses. Wheeling around, the battle was ongoing.
‘Stupefy!’ yelled Draco Malfoy who had apparently found a stray wand, blasting one of the three Death Eaters away from Hagrid who was struggling to defend himself from their triangular position around him.
The Aurors and Order members had paralyzed a handful of Death Eaters while others seemed to have apparated completely, but there were still some who were continuing their battle. From Harry’s point of view, the battle was swaying the Order and Auror’s favor.
Harry reached for his wand and reentered the fray, leaping over the partially blown away rock that had shielded him just moments previously. Auburn had now joined the pair of Death Eaters who had encircled Draco and Hagrid. A Stunning spell rebounded off Hagrid’s back, Harry remembering that the giant in him acted as an inherited shield to many curses.
Harry’s spell was blocked by Auburn, the trio of Death Eaters turning their attention to Harry who joined Draco and Hagrid. Both Harry and Draco sent off Stunning spells of their own which prompted the two Death Eaters to duck. Hagrid shot a stream of sparks from his pink umbrella which connected with the distracted Auburn and sent him flying. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Draco eyeing him tentatively. Harry turned his head, locking eyes with Draco for a split second. That was all it took for Harry to realize what Draco was about to do.
As the two Death Eaters stood back up from their ducking position, Draco and Harry held out their wands aggressively. Then, in one fluent motion, they crossed their wands, pointing them not at the Death Eater in front of them, but in the direction of the one diagonal. This moment of unorthodox dueling took the pair of Death Eaters by surprise, their confusion just long enough that the spells connected in full.
Harry watched as the two Death Eaters lay motionless on the ground. He searched for another ally in need of help but before Harry could fully scan the immediate area, the call of his name disengaged him from his search.
‘HARRY! LOOK OUT!’
Not knowing where he was supposed to look, Harry spun his head in every direction, fear rising up from his depths. Suddenly, he felt a great momentum knock him down from behind. Though he never saw it, he sensed the flash of green light whizz by him as he fell. He hit the grass hard, but did not feel the usual pain that a curse usually brought. It took him a few seconds to realize that someone was on top of him.
Draco extended his hand to Harry as he stood. Seizing it, Harry felt somewhat awkward at Draco’s helpfulness as he was helped to his feet. Harry nodded his thanks, Draco stiffly replying with a nod of his own. It was the sincere, genuine look that Draco gave that took Harry off guard.
Over Draco’s shoulder, Harry saw Nicolas Flamel hiding behind a rock protruding from the base of the hill. Two Death Eaters were firing curses from either side, closing in on Flamel quickly. Harry motioned over to them, Draco aiming his wand at the nearest one with great focus.
Their two spells connected once again. Harry rushed over to Flamel, sending another Stunning spell sideways as he ran which allowed Kingsley Shackelbolt to gain the upper hand on Amycus Carrow. Sliding on the wet grass, Harry and Draco were out of harm’s way as they tended to the wheezing Flamel.
‘Are you alright, sir?’ asked Harry, helping Flamel to a sitting position, rain beginning to pour over them.
‘I’m fine,’ gasped Flamel, but from the deep, red gash staining his cloak at his torso, Harry knew otherwise.
‘We’ve got to get you out of here... right away,’ decided Harry immediately.
‘I’ll take him.’
Harry looked up, taken aback by Draco’s assured expression.
‘No – you’ve gone through enough as it is. Besides –’
‘I said I’ll take him, Potter,’ interrupted Draco forcefully.
‘But... your parents. You agreed to work with the Aurors on condition that they are freed –’
‘That doesn’t change if I’m not around, right? Look – I’ve done what you asked of me. But I’m not going to continue to work inside the law and wait for the Death Eaters to come find me again. As long as I’m working for the Aurors... working inside the law... revenge is impossible.’
Harry wished he could talk Draco out of his rash decision, but the sounds of the battle and the assuredness with which Draco was speaking caused him to discard his cautioning warning. Instead of replying to Draco, Harry re-turned his attention to Flamel.
‘Is that alright with you?’ Harry asked. ‘You’ll have to stay in hiding with Malfoy here until the Aurors can clear your name.’
‘If they can clear my name,’ corrected Flamel.
‘Well er... yeah. That goes for both of you.’ Draco flashed Harry a look of confusion much in the same vein as Harry had felt just a minute before. ‘The Aurors will want to know where you are. Don’t give them any reason to come looking for you. Understand? Just lay low.’
Draco nodded as he helped Flamel get to his feet. Harry covered Draco and Flamel as they locked arms in preparation for their departure.
‘Thank you Harry... for everything,’ wheezed Flamel as he got to his feet. ‘I do hope we meet again at some point.’ Harry nodded with a smile as he continued to focus on the ongoing battle. ‘And Harry...’
‘Get back the Eye. Keep it safe,’ he wheezed painfully. ‘If they ever get their hands on all three stones... well...’
Because of the great strain that the thought of Voldemort possibly returning had put on him, Flamel was unable to finish his sentence. Harry shook Flamel’s hand, looking in to his pained eyes for a fleeting moment. Harry backed away from Flamel, noticing that Draco had not wavered in his stare the entire time he had been talking to Flamel.
Harry mustered up the courage and extended his hand once again. As the sound of the battle filled his ears, Harry’s arm hung in mid-air for what felt like an eternity. Finally, Draco motioned forward, grasping it earnestly for a second or two. Nodding, Harry turned away from the pair, but turned back as he remembered something from his meeting with Draco many months ago.
‘Oh and Malfoy – consider us even now.’
Draco smiled slightly for only a instant.
‘All of us will always be in your debt, Potter... like it or not.’
It was not a moment later that Draco and Flamel disappeared in to the night, a small crack having no echo whatsoever as the battle swallowed up the sound.
‘Harry!’ came the voice of Ron as he and Hermione emerged from the field of battle. ‘What in the bloody hell was Malfoy doing with Flamel? Did they disapparate together?’
‘Yeah. I’ll tell you later Ron,’ replied Harry who pointed at the battle.
Flamel’s departing words left Harry with one focus; getting back the Eye of the Posterus. From the height he was at, Harry could view the entire battle.
‘Help me look for Rabastan! He had the Eye last – we need to get it back!’
‘Hopefully he hasn’t left!’ feared Hermione as she scanned the battlefield, her hands and head perched over the rock.
‘Bloody coward – he probably has!’
‘No he hasn’t Ron! Look – there he is!’ pointed out Harry. He could see him taking on Arthur, Molly, Percy and George Weasley all at once along with his brother Rodolphous.
‘We’ve got to help Mum and Dad!’ cried Ron as his eyes opened wide.
Harry led Ron and Hermione down from the rock, staying at the edge of the battle to avoid being seen as best they could. Hermione sent a well-aimed Disarming spell at a Death Eater consumed in battle with Hestia Jones who promptly blasted the Death Eater away the moment she realized that they were wand-less.
‘Back for more I see, Aberforth!’ Harry heard Avery croak as he dueled Aberforth across the battlefield.
Even though the Weasleys outnumbered the Lestrange brothers by a two-to-one margin, Rodolphous and Rabastan seemed to have taken control of the battle. As the rain continued to pour down on them, Ron raised his wand as they got close to the Weasley and Lestrange duel. Out of the blue, another wizarding family entered the battle.
‘Put down your wands Lestranges!’ came the voice of Frank Longbottom who appeared with his wife Alice and their son Neville from seemingly out of nowhere. ‘Put them down as long as you still want to be kept alive!’
‘Why – isn’t it the Longbottoms! It’s been so long – we must get reacquainted!’ bellowed Rabastan menacingly. ‘Reawaken from your little slumber, I see?! You must feel quite rested!’
‘Just in time to see you and your Death Eaters perish for good too!’ replied Alice Longbottom forcefully. Neville stood bravely in between his parents, his own wand extended.
‘Frank – Alice, please,’ Rabastan said, feigning surrender as he put his hands up, ‘don’t engage us in battle now. I wouldn’t want your son to be a bystander to your swift and incredibly excruciating deaths! Save that inevitable occasion for another day! And I promise you... we won’t merely drive you insane this time!’
‘You can prolong your defeat for as long as you want, Rabastan!’ replied Frank Longbottom. ‘I suggest you surrender now – the odds are stacked against you! We’ve got someone right in front of you who has killed a Lestrange before and we are not afraid of doing it again!’
‘HOW DARE YOU SPEAK OF MY WIFE LIKE THAT! I’LL SEND BOTH OF YOUR FAMILIES NOT TO THE LOONY BIN, BUT TO DEATH’S ROW ITSELF!’ screamed Rodolphous Lestrange in an uncontrolled rage that even took Rabastan by surprise.
Without warning, Rodolphous unloaded a barrage of curses and spells in such rapid succession that Rodolphous disappeared behind the endless streams of nearly blinding light. The Longbottoms pointed their wands together, conjuring a protective charm that shielded them from Rodolphous’ bombardment. As Rodolphous exhaustingly paused, Mr. Weasley sent a curse at him that the Lestrange brother narrowly dodged. Percy and then George did the same, causing Rodolphous to back up further and further along with his brother Rabastan. Then, together, Frank, Alice and Neville Longbottom sent three of their own stunning spells directly at
Rodolphous. He did not even notice them until it was too late.
Rodolphous was knocked backwards with such a force that Harry could almost feel it himself. He heard the cringing sound of bones cracking as Rodolphous fell in to a small, protruding rock. Just by looking at him, Harry could tell he was unconscious. As Harry looked back at Rabastan, he was taken aback by the fact that Rabastan was now looking directly at him, sneering from meters away. Turning on a dime, Rabastan broke in to a run, catching Harry off guard.
‘Get him! He’s getting away!’ cried Mr. Weasley.
Before any of the other Weasleys, Longbottoms or Ron and Hermione even processed Rabastan’s escape attempt, Harry broke in to a sprint of his own, flying by Mr. Weasley as he pointed the families in Rabastan’s direction.
‘Harry – wait!’
Without turning back, Harry ran as fast as his legs could carry him. Harry ignored the calls of Ron, Hermione and the rest calling him back; he was focused on Rabastan.
The Stunning spell barely missed Rabastan. He had no idea where anyone else was behind him, but Harry did know that he was far away from the battle now. His heart was beating out of his chest, his mind overriding the great fatigue that had built up in his legs over the course of the night.
Unexpectedly, Rabastan pivoted and turned to face Harry all in one motion. Even from distance, Harry could see Rabastan’s wide-eyed expression stare deeply and threateningly at him.
Rabastan’s Stunning spell was coming directly for him. Though Harry tried his best, his forward momentum made it difficult to escape the trajectory of the spell. As he tried to dive away, the spell came in to contact with his legs, spinning Harry like a top before he came crashing down to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. Harry could hear Rabastan before he could see him. Opening his eyes, he saw Rabastan’s feet get nearer and nearer.
‘So – you’ve discovered the secret of the Eye of the Posterus, have you?’ he said. ‘If so, then you recognize that with both the Eye and the Philosopher’s Stone in our control, we are only missing one – the Resurrection Stone. If you enlighten me to where that stone is positioned, I will spare your friends’ lives when Lord Voldemort does in fact return. Do we have a deal Mr. Potter, or am I going to have to kill you right now and go about my search for the Resurrection Stone the hard way?’
Harry looked up at Rabastan who stood tall over him, his wand mere inches away from his face. As Harry replied to Rabastan, he slowly grasped for the Elder Wand that lay at his side.
‘Hmmmm... Well, I think I might as well just tell you...’
‘You see... the location of the Resurrection Stone is – Expelliarmus!’
Rabastan’s wand flew out of his hand and up in to the dark sky. He looked down at Harry, legitimate fear creeping over his face.
A greenish glow flew up in to the sky from out of Rabastan’s pocket. Harry struggled to his feet, looking up above him as he tracked down the Eye. It grew bigger and bigger as it fell back to the ground, Harry extending his arm high above him, waiting to catch it.
Rabastan lunged at Harry hard, tackling him to the ground hard and punching him directly in the face. Harry kicked back at Rabastan’s knee, elbowing him in the side of the head as he struggled back to his feet. Rabastan was breathing heavily as he tried to subdue Harry to no avail. With another elbow, Harry got to his feet but was instantly tripped up by Rabastan, falling back on to his face hard. Immediately, a soft, cushioned noise made Harry look to his direct left; sitting in the mossy grass directly in front of his nose was the greenish glow of the Eye of the Posterus.
Before he could reach out to grab it, time seemed to slow to a crawl. Harry felt transfixed upon it, seemingly hypnotized by its beauty. Feeling dizzy, he began to see a picture form inside the green glow of the stone, the world as he knew it dissipating around him and the image inside the stone becoming his only reality...
A series of flashing images rendered Harry bewildered beyond belief. It took him a few moments to grasp what he was seeing, his eyes unaccustomed to the rapidity of the movement. Then, the images smoothed out, enabling Harry to decipher them properly.
He saw Mr. Weasley consoling Mrs. Weasley as she sat crying... A brilliant white encompassed his entire vision as Dumbledore stood resolute, seemingly in conversation with an unknown source... Neville Longbottom was walking alone on a street at night, seething with anger... Ron and Hermione were shivering uncontrollably, Ron collapsing to the ground before Hermione did the same... Voldemort lay still on the ground, his eyes slowly opening... A little boy with black hair was sitting in a classroom, looking up at the professor in awe... He saw himself and Ron lying unmoving in a white painted room, each in their own bed... Aberforth held two clipboards in his hands, looking back and forth between the both of them... Ginny was crying as she was being apprehended, reaching out and trying to fight her way out of her attackers’ clutches... A cave grew closer and closer as if Harry was walking towards it... An older, ghostly, blond haired wizard was looking straight at him... Ron was lying on the ground, a group of hooded figures laughing over him as he lay unmoving...
As sudden as the images began, they ended. Harry snapped out of his gaze, realizing that he was still laying on the grassy mountain once again, the cold rain pouring over him. Instinctively, he reached for the Eye directly in front of him. Rabastan’s hand overlapped Harry, his seething face meeting Harry’s head on.
‘Give it to me!’ he growled.
‘Never,’ replied Harry defiantly.
Both of them being wand-less, Harry and Rabastan slowed to their feet, each of them clutching the Eye with one hand, trying to pry it away from the other. With great focus, Harry used his free hand to delve in to his pocket, feeling for his actual wand. He seized it, aiming it at Rabastan from within his pocket.
‘Stupefy!’ he mustered.
Rabastan was able to shift out of the way just in time, but his movement caused his grip on the Eye to come loose. The momentum caused Harry to lose his grip as well, the Eye flung high in to the air. Harry looked up, focused on the Eye as it began to fall back to the ground for the second time. Rabastan ran forward at Harry once again, but this time, Harry silently stunned the Death Eater, knocking him backwards. The Eye fell in to Harry’s hands. He looked at it briefly before stuffing it in to his pocket.
Rabastan struggled to his feet. He reached to pick up his fallen wand at the same time that Harry retrieved the Elder Wand. Rabastan pointed it at Harry but his aggressive stance evaporated as he noticed something emerging from the shadows. Half-glancing behind him, Harry saw something approach, the dark figure’s face hidden by the shadows.
‘That’s as far as you’ll go,’ growled the unmistakable voice of Mosteban. The moonlight lit up his scarred, bearded face. ‘Would you like to suffer the same fate as your brother over there?’
Taking a step back, Rabastan quickly examined the scene in front of him. It did not take the Lestrange brother long before his sneering expression turned in to a lop-sided smirk. When he spoke, his usual sing-songy, charismatic tone of voice felt as if it had long since departed, catching Harry off guard. Rabastan’s monotone carried a threatening weight with every word.
‘It is useless to fight. Lord Voldemort’s return is... inevitable. Soon... everyone will know that this is not a bluff... but fact.’
It was not a split second later that Rabastan vanished in to thin air, a crack reverberating throughout the all-of-a-sudden quiet night. Harry had no time to think. In an instant he was grabbed and moved forward roughly by Mosteban.
‘Get off me! What are you –’
‘SHUT UP, POTTER!’ growled Mosteban.
Harry turned to see that the battle had slowed to a halt, but any further speculation was suspended by his conjoined apparation with Mosteban who apparated while still holding Harry’s collar. Harry felt his body leave the rainy night, a sudden warmth encasing him before he could even tell where he had apparated to.
‘Sit,’ directed Mosteban.
Kicking out a chair from the opposite side of his office desk, Harry reluctantly obliged after standing for a few glaring seconds.
‘I have my ways around the restrictive enchantments surrounding the Ministry,’ muttered Mosteban as he noticed Harry’s perplexed look at their arrival inside the Ministry of Magic’s Auror Department.
‘Why did we leave? We need to go back and help the others!’
‘The others are fine – Aurors have been called in to help detain the caught Death Eaters before any Muggles notice. After tonight’s events at Azkaban, we have to hold them in another location temporarily. Many Death Eaters were re-caught – Rodolphous Lestrange included... many escaped yet again.’
‘Is everyone OK? Where has everyone gone?’
‘Yes, Potter! No thanks to you, I may add! By sheer dumb luck... everyone escaped without any serious harm! But bringing your little band of followers is something that a real Auror knows not to do!’
‘I don’t care what a real Auror would do! All I care about is my friends! What about –’
The door to Mosteban’s office burst open, interrupting Harry’s question. Being flanked by Williamson, Blackburn, Richter, Kingsley Shackelbolt and Gawain Robards was Rufus Fudge who was also accompanied by a pair of his own Ministry officials. To his surprise, Harry saw that Aberforth was trailing behind. He could have sworn that he saw him lock eyes with Mosteban, but when he spun around to see if Mosteban was reciprocating, the Head Auror had already looked away.
‘Don’t try to talk me out of it, Kingsley!’ came the angry voice of Fudge. ‘You have no bearing upon this office’s judgment! Remember your place – if you even have one anymore...’
The contingent of Aurors and Fudge’s government assistants were all talking and arguing feverishly with one another, Fudge’s voice louder than all the rest. The door slammed shut behind Aberforth, Fudge wheeling on his heel to face Harry.
‘Well?!’ asked Fudge directly, his eyes wide as he stared at Harry.
‘Well – what?’ replied Harry.
‘Don’t play around Potter! Tell me what you know!’
‘Perhaps if you gave Harry a chance to breath he would be more akin to your ridiculous questioning, Minister,’ interjected Kingsley Shackelbolt.
Fudge stared at him, seemingly on the brink of losing his mind. His hair was not well-manicured and handsome as it usually was, but slightly wild looking. The livid expression on his face made him look irregular; Harry was used to seeing the Minister wear his debonair, handsome looks.
‘You broke in to Azkaban prison, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU POTTER?! Because of you, countless Death Eaters escaped, not to mention Nicolas Flamel who was last seen at the very battle from which you just came from! I want answers Potter – answers that might just save your life from the conspiracy charges that will result in a lifetime sentence to Azkaban!’
‘You are out of line, Minister!’ boomed Kingsley with his deep voice. ‘You have no proof that Harry was ever involved in the Azkaban breakout tonight. If I was you, I’d stop harassing the young man before news of your madness leaks to the public. And we all know how much you cling to the public, don’t we?!’
‘Mr. Potter,’ spoke one of Fudge’s officials in a squeaky voice, taking over from Fudge who was fuming. ‘What was the reasoning of your arrival at Chrome Hill this evening?’ ‘What does it matter – we caught a bunch of the Death Eaters who escaped, didn’t we?’
‘Harry,’ said Williamson calmly, Fudge’s assistant scrunching up his face in disdain for Harry’s response. ‘Answer the question.’ Williamson nodded his head in encouragement.
‘I thought that’s where the Death Eaters would convene.’
‘Why?’ asked the official.
‘I’m an Auror. That business is confidential.’
Harry did not care in the slightest that he was mocking Fudge and his officials. He felt the Eye of the Posterus in his pocket, holding it tightly.
‘I think your safe to reveal that here,’ the official furthered, Fudge watching Harry with intense loathing. Harry paused as he gathered his thoughts, wanting to sound as natural as possible when he spoke.
‘The Death Eaters believe in a thing called... the Eye of the Posterus. It’s some... fictional stone that Nicolas Flamel apparently created. They believed its location to be at Chrome Hill. So I went there. Notified the Aurors and my friends before I left.’
‘That’s true, Minister,’ insisted Gawain Robards. ‘Mr. Potter notified me of a possible Death Eater meeting.’
‘But how did the Death Eaters just... escape then?’ snapped Fudge. ‘Someone must have released them and Flamel from their cells!’
‘That is a very troubling question for your Ministry, isn’t it Rufus?’ asked Kingsley mockingly. A flare of anger flew over Fudge’s face.
‘Whoever freed the Death Eaters freed Flamel as well. They must have wanted Flamel because of their belief in this... Eye, thing,’ continued Gawain Robards. Mosteban sat on a small, black trunk beside his desk, watching casually without speaking.
‘Where has Nicolas Flamel gone then, Potter?’ asked Flamel, changing course. ‘He was seen at Chrome Hill during the battle. Did he just vanish?’
‘I don’t know where Flamel went,’ lied Harry, wondering where Flamel and Malfoy were travelling to.
Fudge licked his lips as he examined Harry. Enjoying being the source of Fudge’s frustration, Harry playfully smiled at Fudge. This nearly untraceable look seemed to be the tipping point for the Minister of Magic.
‘I want him fired, Mosteban. You hear me? Sacked!’
‘What for?!’ argued Harry. ‘I didn’t do anything wrong!’
‘You did nothing right either! And as an Auror, if you are not meeting standards, you should be let go! You were deceptive amongst your peers!’ rallied Fudge, slamming his hand down on Mosteban’s desk hard. His deep scarlet robes were beginning to match his face. ‘If you had information on the Death Eaters’ whereabouts, you shouldn’t have waited until the very last moment to relay that information – and to witches and wizards who are not members of the Auror Office nonetheless! That’s a breach of contract! Sack him, Mosteban!’
‘As Head of the Aurors,’ began Mosteban without much care in his voice, ‘I have the final say on all personnel decisions. While I may not be entirely impressed with Potter’s work... his work did lead to the recapture of Death Eaters tonight. Sacking him... is not called for. Though I do agree... punishment for the reasons you mentioned Minister is in order. You’ll be suspended Potter. One month – without pay.’
‘Fine!’ responded Harry loudly.
He did not care in the least about his position as Auror at that very moment. Not giving Fudge the satisfaction of seeing him upset seemed to silence the Minister. Having nothing else to say on the matter, Fudge searched the room for inspiration. Fudge’s eyes lit up as he noticed someone who Harry had nearly forgotten about.
‘What are you doing here?!’ said Fudge forcefully out of sheer frustration, indicating Aberforth on the far side of the room.
‘Excuse me, Minister,’ said Aberforth quietly and respectfully. ‘I was brought along as a witness. You see, I was with Harry when he travelled to Chrome Hill. I wanted to go with him – didn’t think it was safe for him to travel to a location that was possibly swarming with Death Eaters by himself.’
Fudge crossed his arms and glanced at his official. As they looked at each other, a mutual understanding seemed to connect them both. Williamson glanced at Kingsley who looked on oddly at the Minister.
‘Go ahead, Browning. Go ahead,’ said Fudge, motioning his official to speak, a small smile slowly showing itself.
‘Yes, Minister. When we conducted our investigation at Azkaban prison,’ Browning said meticulously, ‘we were surprised to conclude that every single employee of Azkaban – guards, receptionists and the like – had their memories... completely removed. It seems as if the one who has broken in to Azkaban does not wish for their identity to be known... naturally.’
‘There was however,’ continued the second Ministry official, ‘one small snag in the perpetrator’s plan, you see.’ Harry shifted in his seat uncomfortably. ‘One of the guards was not affected by the memory charm in full. Now... most of his memory of the night’s events has left him... but he does swear – affirmed this evening by Veritaserum – that he saw... none other than a stag Patronus blast away the Dementors of Azkaban.’
There was a long pause after the official’s speech. Fudge grinned as he looked sideways at Harry. Williamson turned to Kingsley who did not return the look.
‘You...’ began Fudge quietly and slowly, pointing towards Harry as he inched towards him. ‘I gave you a chance to come clean on your own accord. I certainly did think that you had much more dignity than what you have showed here tonight, Mr. Potter. It looks as if the Boy Who Lived will get a new moniker. The Boy Who Lies. Because it is you who has a stag Patronus – it is information that has been much publicized as your mostly undeserving legend has grown. It is a legend that ends here tonight. Take him away!’
Williamson moved forward but stopped himself as the Ministry officials moved in to seize Harry. Mosteban shifted in his seat, looking at all those in the room. Standing up, Harry stared at Fudge, his chest rising and falling as his hands were placed behind his back. Fudge laughed silently, shaking his head in sarcastic disappointment.
The commanding voice of Aberforth halted the Ministry officials dead in their tracks. Harry stared at Aberforth desperately, not knowing what the younger Dumbledore was about to say. He half-smiled at Harry, his grin shining through his wet beard. His cold grey eyes seemed to tear as he nodded at Harry, closing his eyes before he spoke once again.
‘I confess – it was me who broke in to Azkaban.’
‘Quiet boy!’ hushed Fudge. ‘What are you saying?! I know that Potter was the one to break-in to Azkaban. I have proof that –’
‘I assure you, it was not Harry,’ whispered Aberforth. ‘It was me who broke out the Death Eaters and Flamel. I thought that if I pretended to be on their side, they would show me to the Eye and then I could take it for myself. It was me who cast the Patronus. You can’t take Harry to Azkaban because he’s innocent. It was me.’
‘No it wasn’t! Stop it, Aberforth! You know that you never did that!’
Aberforth ignored Harry’s plea. Everyone in the office stared at Aberforth, their mouths hanging open absent-mindedly in shock. Even Mosteban shifted in his seat atop the black trunk, looking rapidly from Aberforth to Harry.
‘W-Well... that cannot be!’ uttered Fudge after a moment. ‘It is Potter who has the Patronus form of a stag – not you!’
‘Check Potter’s wand if you must be sure – I am positive that his own wand never conjured that charm.’
‘Seize his wand!’
Browning ripped Harry’s wand from his pocket, immediately taking out his own wand. Harry heard Browning mutter something to himself; he knew that Browning was performing the charm that would recount the last spells used by his wand. Harry remembered back to Azkaban, recounting that it was the Elder Wand that he had used when he had produced his Patronus. Internally, he smiled, relieved at Aberforth’s acute memory. He looked at Aberforth desperately, not wanting Aberforth to follow through with his artificial guilt.
‘It checks out, sir,’ the official muttered. ‘This wand never produced a Patronus charm this evening...’
Fudge grew very pale extraordinarily quickly. He shook his head as he looked at the ground, his eyes watering in frustration when he finally looked back up.
‘Well I think it’s necessary that we see you produce a Patronus charm in the form of a stag! Come on then!’
‘But Aberforth...’ muttered Kingsley, clearly in shock. ‘Your Patronus form is a coyote...’
‘Some things change, Kingsley,’ muttered Aberforth calmly in reply as he retrieved his wand without a hint of nervousness or fear.
‘But Patronus forms only change to someone else’s as a response to a powerful emotion... such as love or a new, deep friendship...’ whispered Kingsley to which only Harry could hear as he stood near.
‘You’re right, Kingsley,’ said Aberforth kindly, his eyes glistening as he looked proudly at Harry. ‘It’s because of both of those reasons. Expecto Patronum!’
A brilliant white stage burst from the end of Aberforth’s wand. It reared its head before it beautifully galloped through the wall of Mosteban’s office, standing just long enough for everyone to get a good glimpse of it. Aberforth tossed his wand on the floor and stood with his hands out. Harry looked to Fudge who opened his mouth without speaking, taken aback by the turn of events.
‘S-Seize him!’ yelled Fudge hesitantly reverting to a more commanding approach with his next direction. ‘GRAB HIM NOW!’
The Ministry officials forcefully pushed Aberforth forward, binding his hands with an iron rope that shot out from one of their wands. They bound his feet together and then his arms. Browning levitated his entire body and began guiding it out the door.
‘Aberforth Dumbledore,’ began the second Ministry official. ‘You are herby sentenced to temporary stay at Azkaban prison... once it is deemed to be suitable once more. A hearing will be held but since you have admitted your guilt, it is only mere formality. You will be sentenced to lifetime in Azkaban... for conspiring against the Ministry and therefore, against the magic folk the Ministry represents and associating yourself with a known enemy of the Ministry of Magic as well as breaking countless laws drawn up by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.’
As Aberforth floated by, his eyes met Mosteban’s for a long moment. Harry looked back at Mosteban who nodded twice in Aberforth’s direction before he turned and walked briskly out of his office altogether, towing his black trunk behind him as he brushed by Browning, Fudge and Aberforth on his way out. Desperately, Harry tried to follow Aberforth. The guilt built up inside him to the point where Harry thought he would crack. He could not let Aberforth take the fall for him.
‘Aberforth – you’re innocent! You can’t do this! Stop it! It wasn’t you who did it! It was m–’
‘HARRY!’ interrupted Aberforth forcefully. ‘Harry I made my decision. I’m sorry I let you down!’
‘Quiet! None of us want to hear you speak!’ barked Fudge who strode past.
Harry pushed forward but Williamson and Gawain Robards tried to block him from following Aberforth, Fudge and the Ministry officials.
‘Get out of my way!’
‘Listen to me Harry! Keep everything safe, you hear me? This is my time to go – it’s all necessary. And lastly Harry... thank you. Thank you for –’
Fudge’s non-verbal silencing charm took effect right away. Giving one final wink and feeble smile, Aberforth departed Harry’s sightline. Harry felt like protesting until his lungs were shot, but upon listening to Aberforth’s reasoned voice, he knew that it was useless. As Harry stopped trying to break through the wall that Williamson and Gawain had formed, the two Aurors could not look Harry in the eye, each looking as if they were trying to hide their own feelings about what had just happened. Harry kicked Mosteban’s desk hard in anger, his foot throbbing in pain the moment that he connected with the hard oak surface. Large, wet tears stung his eyes as Aberforth disappeared from his view. It was his fault that all this had happened. Clutching at the Eye that was still in his pocket, Harry made a vow with himself that he would keep the Eye safe or die trying. He owed Aberforth his best.
Nearly shaking, Harry felt his brain pulsating. His dizziness made it hard to stand, swaying back and forth as he closed his eyes, feeling a tear slide down his dry face. Then, all at the same time, his senses came back to him. Opening his eyes at his illuminating thought, he charged through the opening Williamson and Gawain had made as they begun to disperse. Marching forward, Harry bee lined for the door, one man firmly set in his mind – Mosteban.
The adrenaline that was rushing through his body gave Harry energy that even he did not know he had. He burst through the door with such a force that it slammed back hard, nearly coming off its hinges. Fudge, Aberforth and the Ministry officials had already left the Auror Department which looked ghostly in its near emptiness. He scanned the entire area; Mosteban could not have gotten far. Even though he knew that there was nothing he could do to save Aberforth from his undeserving fate, Harry felt as if he had to do something. He had no care in the world as to what the consequences would or could be. In his remorse all Harry wanted to do was to achieve something.
In the distance, Harry heard a creaking noise and a door slam shut. Sprinting forward, he nearly ran in to a stray Auror who was packing up for the day. A few papers flew in to the air as he ran by a messy cubicle, knocking over its wastepaper basket on his way. Quickly, he made his way over to the Auror Lounge down the narrow passageway, inserting his wand in to one of the little divots. He heard the door unlock from within, hastily wrenching open the door to the Lounge and entering the bleak room.
‘All right – tell me! What have you been doing this year?! Where have you been going?’
Harry held his wand aloft at the Head Auror. Mosteban looked up in surprise, dropping the black trunk on the carpeted floor as he felt for his own wand.
‘Don’t try it! Tell me! I know you’ve been up to something since the start of the year! You’ve had something to do with the attacks on the Ministry this year, haven’t you? TELL ME!’
Mosteban put his hand back down at his side, adjusting his cloak sleeve out of its crease. He sighed at Harry who did not dither in his hostile stance.
‘Is that what you think now... is it?’ Mosteban put a hand through his hair as he spoke quietly. ‘You know... I could have you committed in Azkaban right now Potter and I’d do it without even batting an eye. Holding the Head Auror at wand point without cause is something that – ’
‘I HAVE CAUSE!’
‘You think so do you?!’ roared Mosteban. He shook his head while curling his lip. ‘Well... I guess it wouldn’t hurt to tell you now... would it...’
‘Tell me what? That you’ve been siding with the Death Eaters all year! Helping them in to the Ministry so that they can do... whatever it is that they’re doing?!’
Harry’s rage and his will to see an actual guilty wizard sentenced to Azkaban overrode his logic and reason at the moment. He could not let Mosteban get away with any more of his crimes. Mosteban looked at Harry’s focused eyes and then down at his wand, realizing that he would have to oblige to Harry’s requests.
Mosteban retrieved a tiny vial from his pocket. Harry could read the label from where he was standing. Veritaserum, it read in small, black-printed lettering. Mosteban took out the cork and took a swig of the concoction, pausing for a moment as he swallowed. He looked at Harry blankly as he stuffed the vial back in to his pocket. He took a deep breath and then spoke clearly.
‘I assure you I have no idea what Rabastan and the Death Eaters have done at the Ministry over the past months. I have tried to discover what their agenda is, but to no avail. All my colleague and I have discovered is that they seem to be answering to someone outside their ranks. As to who they are... we have no idea.’
‘What colleague?’ questioned Harry. Mosteban sighed but did not blink as his mouth slowly opened.
Harry subconsciously lowered his wand slightly as the weight of the name hit him. Realizing what he was doing, Harry raised his wand once again.
‘You’re lying!’ Mosteban pointed to the vial of Veritaserum inside his cloak pocket. ‘I don’t care! That could be fake! I saw you and that Death Eater trying to attack Aberforth in Hogsmeade at the Hog’s Head! If I wasn’t there you would have killed him!’
‘I knew that was you Potter,’ growled Mosteban, seemingly not even concerned at Harry’s wand pointed directly at him. ‘And no it was never my intention to kill him. Rather the opposite. It was our plan – mine and Aberforth’s – to fake his death. Then, when Rackert’s back was turned, he would jinx him and we would be able to question him. But you ruined our plans that night, Potter! Thanks to you, we may never discover the reason why the Death Eaters were breaking in to the Ministry. At least until it’s too late!’
‘That can’t be true,’ retaliated Harry. ‘Why wouldn’t Aberforth just tell me of his allegiance to you then? If you two were allies... then why would he go along with my suspicions that you were working with the Death Eaters?’
‘Because we made an Unbreakable Vow, Potter!’ bellowed Mosteban. ‘He did not want to, but I wanted him to keep our plans secret from everybody. The less who know of an operation, the less likely the operation will be figured out.’
‘Why?’ asked Harry defiantly, tears once again coming to his eyes as he thought of Aberforth. ‘Why would the two of you join forces?’
‘Simple. For the same and different reasons all at the same time. Aberforth believes in the Eye of the Posterus – always has. I don’t care for it in the least. But what I do care about is apprehending the Death Eaters. We both felt that together, we would be able to achieve both our goals. Even though I believe the Eye to be entirely fictional, if the Death Eaters believed it, I wanted to know everything about it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, Potter. I knew the only way I could go about my business in the way that I wanted to would be to work away from the eyes of the Ministry... with a powerful wizard. Contrary to what Rufus Fudge believes, in moments of great peril – like we are experiencing now – the only way to achieve things is to plunge your arm in to the filth and do things... independently.’
‘That’s what he warned you about, didn’t he? About leaving the Ministry?’
‘Yes,’ snarled Mosteban who stood stock-still. ‘I would visit Aberforth and join him on our missions to gain access in to the Death Eaters. At first, I used Aberforth to spy on the Death Eaters. Doing so myself would be far too risky – being gone from the Ministry for extended periods of time was already beginning to arouse suspicion. The first time he tried to spy on one of their smaller meetings, he was discovered. He suffered a bad injury to his face that took weeks to heal. I took many potions from our Potions Room at the Auror Office, without which... well I dare say, the curses that effected Aberforth may have never healed properly.’
Even if he never had drunk some of the Veritaserum potion, Harry knew that Mosteban was speaking the truth; Harry knew it was the truth in his mind and in his heart. He remembered the ugly shade of purple that Aberforth’s face had turned when he had visited him months ago and how he had refused to divulge how his face had gotten to such a state.
‘Anyway,’ continued Mosteban emotionlessly, ‘I came to the conclusion that it would be far too difficult to learn anything useful from the Death Eaters by merely spying on them from afar. Plus... after Aberforth’s close call, they were suspecting infiltrators. They started varying their meeting places; it took months to crack their code. We couldn’t keep our distance – we had to be closer. So – after Aberforth carefully overheard a Death Eater speak of new recruits – I made it my mission to discover who these new recruits were. When I found one – Rackert – I quickly met up with him, telling him of my disdain for the Aurors. In time... he bought what I was selling. Quickly – like many new, untrustworthy Death Eaters – he grew tired of the constant inaction of their organization. I used his frustration to my advantage, persuading him to spring in to action with myself.’
‘Does Fudge know what you’ve done?’ asked Harry much less threateningly than before, even though his wand was still held aloft.
‘No, he doesn’t. I don’t trust him. He asked me... in exchange for letting me continue on my travels away from the Ministry... that I watch you. Keep an eye on you.’ Harry remembered spying on this very conversation months ago, but thought it needless to divulge that now. ‘Little did he know... that I already was.’ Harry stood straighter, contorting his face in to a look of confusion. ‘Yes, I was. Because I knew I could use you as a portal to the Death Eaters. They would surely try to kill you as they have shown this year on multiple occasions even though I still believe their attacks on the Ministry are for more than just attempting to murder you. I knew if I kept close tabs on you... I might be able to locate the Death Eaters. You are the honey that attracts the Death Eater wasp.’ Suddenly, a revelation hit Harry like a ton of bricks.
‘It was you at the Quidditch match! Wasn’t it? Impersonating Hermione!’
‘Yes it was. Aberforth retrieved one of her hairs for me. You see... the Death Eaters concocted a well thought out plan to bring you out in to the open. They infiltrated the Holyhead Harpies themselves. Put a jinx on the team so that they would begin to lose and decline in the standings.’
‘So that Westlocke would have a justifiable reason to insert Weasley – and therefore ensure your attendance. I understand the two of you are a couple.’
‘Something like that...’ muttered Harry, thinking of Ginny and then to that day at the Quidditch match, remembering how odd who he thought was Hermione was acting.
‘They cast the Imperius Curse over Westlocke and forced him to make the decision to start Weasley in that match. I caught wind of it, took the chance that Granger would not be in attendance and sat in the stands. There was a Death Eater sitting a few rows behind you, disguised as a fan. It was their plan to kill you during the match. No one would notice – they’d all be focused on the match. And even if someone did, they would be disguised and would be gone in a second. Luckily, I stunned the Death Eater just as he was about to use the Killing Curse on you.’
‘You... you saved me?’
Mosteban made no indication that he even heard Harry’s muddled response. Instead, he kicked the black trunk, indicating Harry to look inside. Mosteban unlocked the trunk, opening the lid slowly. Harry was horrified to see a man lying down unconscious inside. He could tell who the man was immediately. He had seen his picture in the Prophet’s Quidditch section many times before.
‘Imperius Curse worked flawlessly on Westlocke here – I had to knock him out when I found him. Everyone thinks he’s missing so once I revive him... I’ll send him back home to his family. This Unforgiveable Curse is quite difficult to reverse if it latches on so tightly.’
‘So... it was Aberforth who you were speaking with in the fireplaces. We have to make him think that I am on his side,’ Harry recounted Mosteban saying. ‘You were... you were talking about Rackert. Not... not me...’
‘Aren’t you a bloody smart one, Potter,’ Mosteban said harshly, closing the lid to the trunk and locking it once again.
‘What about the Death Eaters’ spy then,’ asked Harry. ‘When Draco allowed me access in to the Death Eater meeting, they spoke of them having a spy or something on me. I thought it was you.’
‘Ha! How wrong you were, Potter. I have no idea who could be spying on you. I’d suggest keeping your wits about you and being on high alert. Let Williamson know – perhaps he could be of help... I don’t suspect you would tell anyone else any of this.’
‘And what if I do?’ replied Harry jarringly. Mosteban scowled.
‘Well... I have a certain piece of information on you that I’m sure you would not want revealed. Something about... breaking in to Azkaban...’ Harry did not say a word. Mosteban read the look of repressed fear on Harry’s face. ‘How else did you think Aberforth got my identification card? I gave him my hair for the Polyjuice Potion so he could impersonate me! He told me of your little plan. I knew you were right, stupid as you were to amass such a plan. But I thought that if you were successful in breaking out Flamel, the Death Eaters would surely make their presence known. And they did. A success – even though you allowed many others out in the process.’
‘But Aberforth’s in Azkaban! How can you say that’s a success?!’
‘Aberforth knew the risks going in, as did I,’ Mosteban replied matter-of-factly, continuing to disregard Harry’s wand arm that had once again fallen slightly limp. ‘We all must live with the consequences...’
‘But you know he’s innocent! You can tell everyone that and get him out! He never broke out Death Eaters! And Flamel is innocent anyway!’
‘And what, would you rather take his place? Tell them the truth and have you in Azkaban? If that’s your wish, I’d gladly oblige. Aberforth is a powerful wizard – much more powerful than you will ever be. Yet...’ Mosteban looked at his feet, feeling his stubbly beard as he looked back up. ‘I made an Unbreakable Vow to Aberforth.’
There was a long pause before Mosteban spoke again. For the first time, Mosteban looked legitimately moved, if only for just a split second.
‘I promised him that if this ever happened... that you were found out during your Azkaban mission... and that the prisoner would come down to you or him... that I would do everything in my power to make sure that he would take the fall... and that forever more... I would look over you.’ The last part of his speech seemed to pain Mosteban greatly.
‘Aberforth said that?’
‘It was his only condition as part of our agreement.’
As if Harry could not feel more guilty and indebted to Aberforth, this new piece of information made Harry feel as if he would pass out. He did not even realize that Mosteban had begun dragging his trunk to the fireplace, grabbing a fist full of Floo Powder out of a container in his cloak pocket.
‘I’ll see what I can do to reduce his sentence, but I can’t promise anything. That’s all any of us can do for Aberforth now.’
Without even a look back, Mosteban yet again broke the laws of Ministry travel and disappeared in to a gulf of emerald flames. Harry did not even think about how Mosteban had manipulated the entire department to allow his free travel. Standing still, his wand fell loose from his grip and tumbled to the ground. He stood alone, wet and cold in the vacant Auror Lounge, feeling much more empty than he could ever remember feeling.
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