Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic still, wiped sweat from his crimson face with a handkerchief and stared through the bars to the two ragged figures behind it. From a distance, muffled noise penetrated the unfamiliarly hot July air. A blast tore the sounds, Fudges gaze trailed to the sky, where a fireworkdragon spread his wings and swooshed over the grounds of Hogwarts. Fudge blinked, squinting his eyes and stared at McGonagall and Snape, who had not moved.
The sight of the two was unusual: McGonagall's usually so accurate appearance had suffered considerably. Strands hung from her bun, the glasses sat askew on her nose and blue spots shone on her cloak. Snape was no better: His hair was so greasy that the gunk continued onto the collar of his cloak, his face almost white. They both looked out of dark circled eyes and remained mute.
What Impudence, Fudge thought, while the fingers of his right hand played nervously with his wand and he wondered if he should have come here at all. But nowadays everything collapsed around him and he could not afford any weakness. So he straightened his back and cried:
"I demand an explanation!" Silence.
"Where are my Aurors?" he clamored. "Why have my letters not been answered? Where is Dumbledore, and why, damn it, are the gates closed? "
"Letters?" McGonagall asked flatly. "What letters?"
"The letters that I sent you of course!" Shouted Fudge.
The two exchanged glances.
"There are problems with the Owl Post", said Snape softly and tucked a fatty streak behind his ear.
"What problems?" Fudge snorted. "Let me in already!"
Again the two faced each other.
"What do you reckon, Severus?" asked McGonagall. Snape smiled thinly.
"He seems to be his usual self," he said maliciously, drew his wand from his cloak and tapped against the gate's lock. It clicked and clacked, then the gates swung up just long enough so Fudge could squeeze through before they snaped shot behind him. Fudge looked back irritated, composed himself a little and roared:
"I demand an explanation! Where's Dumbledore and what's that noise? "
"The noise", McGonagall sighed. "I think, includes your aurores." She sighed again. "It's hard to explain. Better see it for yourself. "
~ 0 ~
Fudge walked after McGonagall and Snape along the winding road, always torwards the noise. Another firework exploded over their heads and Fudge shuddered with each new blast. He grabbed his wand with a sweaty hand, clatched the wet handkerchief in the other and felt more dishearted with every step. What was going on? Summer vacation was still going on, the school should be abandoned. In fact, neither McGonagall nor Snape ought to be here. And I least of them all, he thought angrily.
After all, the disappearance of a dozen Aurors could not be covered up any longer- people began to ask questions. But what should he have done? Dumbledore's request for reinforcements had been so insistent, and Fudge, shaken by the appearance of the one you did not mention by name had not asked any questions. Basically, he had not wanted to know, his position was compromised enough already. Now he regreted it of course, and he could not bear to imagine what would happen if the public learned, that he had lost more than ten Aurors.
When they reached the last bend before the castle would come into view, the two teachers stopped. McGonagall finally adjusted her glasses and brushed the hair from her face then turned to Fudge.
"You asked about the letters", she began. Fudge stared at her; the letters seemed to be the least of his problems at the moment.
"Before you came, the aurores were our last contact. For two weeks now we have been cut off from the outside world. We cannot send messages, believe me we have tried, but the owls only fly aimlessly around the towers and come back when they are hungry. It's almost like there is nothing outside of Hogwarts, as if this area of the world has been torn out." She shuddered.
"What?" croaked Fudge. Snape gave him a contemptuous look.
"As I said: He is his usual self."
"Mind your station!" shouted Fudge, but Snape just smiled mockingly.
"Severus, this is hardly helpful," McGonagall admonished her colleague. A fly buzzed sluggishly around Fudge's face.
"Tell me what's going on already," demanded Fudge exasperated and chased the insect away with his handkerchief.
"We believe it is an invasion," said Snape.
"The Death Eaters," Fudge whispered, turning pale. The others laughed bitterly.
"Certainly not," McGonagall said dryly. "Some of them run around here, but I do not think these are the real ones."
"Certainly not," snarled Snape.
"Well, the last time we counted there were fifteen Lucius Malfoys, some of which developed a soft spot for Professor Snape."
"I do not want to talk about it", hissed Snape.
"But Lucius Malfoy is in jail," stammered Fudge.
"And of course various Voldemorts", she continued unmoved.
"He's here?" whispered Fudge now white as a sheet and stepped back.
"Multiply so" confirmed McGonagall. "In all ages, symptoms and emotional states, but basically harmless, at least for us. These Voldemorts are more interested in Harry Potter - and others " She glanced at Snape.
"Potter", Snape choked.
"Of course he is interested in Potter", Fudge said, and backed off even further. "He wants to kill him!"
"Not necessarily. I assure you, Minister, you are nothing to these Voldemorts."
"Nothing?" yelled Fudge. "I am the minister of magic and you know who will not harm me?"
"Politics is the least thing our Voldemorts take an interest in", said Snape close to explosion. Fudge froze and looked confused from one to the other.
"I do not understand", he stammered. "You know who has nothing else in mind than world domination."
"We're wasting time," said McGonagall coldly. "Anyway, some of them are too bulky to pose a danger."
"That's how it is when you're pregnant", Snape gritted.
Fudge stared at him. That was madness! But of course, that explained it: McGonagall and Snape were crazy! Somehow they had taken control over the school and now they staged a grotesque comedy, which, judging by the noise, involved some students as well. Fudge pulled the wand out of his cloak and aimed at the two lunatics who gazed at him in silence.
"We are not crazy," McGonagall said at last. "If you do not believe us, see for yourself!"
"I won't", said Fudge waving his wand. "You want to trap me, that's how it is!"
"Ah," sneered Snape. "So you think the two of us not only overwhelmed your aurores, but defeated Dumbledore as well?"
"I suppose Dumbledore is the head of it all", shouted Fudge. McGonagall turned red.
"Don't you dare disparage the headmaster", she cried angrily and aimed her wand at him.
"But this makes sense! The burden of the past year was too much for him!"
Fudge was very enthusiastic about this solution - until he remembered that the man whose name was nether mentioned, except by lunatics like the two before him, had actually returned.
"Sure," snarled Snape. „He sees things through for an entire year although the Ministry made his life hell, dueles with the Dark Lord and when holidays come, when everything is settled and proven that he was right, he goes nuts."
"Such things happen", pleaded Fudge.
McGonagall breathed heavily and lowered her wand.
"No, Sir", she said wearily, "unfortunately it is not that simple. You see, Voldemort is not the only one we have here several times, "Her arms hung limply beside her body
"You're not saying…Dumbledore, too?" Fudge whispered horrified.
"Among others", she answered barely audible. "We'll show you."
She turned around and disappeared behind the bend, followed by Snape, who gave Fudge another contemptuous look.
Fudge felt as if he had lost every bone in his body. What was going on here? He shuddered. Well, it didn't matter now, whether Death Eaters, deception or anything - he must get out of here.
"Excuse me", someone said behind him.
Fudge spun around and looked into the bewildered face of a young man with black hair, who seemed somewhat familiar to Fudge. The stranger looked at Fudge, then at the wand pointed at him and repeated uncertainly:
"Excuse me, can you tell me what I'm doing here?"
"I beg your pardon?" Fudge asked stupidly
"This is Hogwarts, is it not?" continued the man, hesitating. Fudge nodded.
"But how did I come here?" muttered the stranger. "You know, I think I was dead, but now I'm here. How is that possible?"
"Who are you?" Fudge asked suspiciously.
"How rude of me. My name is Regulus Black, I used to be a student here."
"Regulus Black?" repeated Fudge. "But you're a Death Eater!" He raised his wand and aimed between Black's eyes.
"Not anymore!" Black said indignantly. "The Dark Lord has treated my house elf very badly, that's why I am no longer a Death Eaters, you see?"
"No, I do not see," snorted Fudge. All nuts here. Black eyed Fudge up intensely as if doubting his sanity.
"Hm", he said finally, "then I will look for someone who can help me. This way to the castle, right?" And without waiting for an answer, he walked around Fudge in a huge curve and disappeared around the bend.
Fudge stared after him. That claimed to be Regulus Black? But this man was no older than twenty. This could not be! What's going on, Fudge thought desperately. If this really was an invasion, and the Death Eaters had nothing to do with it, and the public learned that he had known about it and had done nothing - he could already see the headlines:
"Minister for Magic failes again!"
"How long must we tolerate that?"
"Children of no importance to the ministry!"
Fudge gasped, he could not afford this. For a moment he tottered on the place, then helplessness and anger overpowered him and he rushed, his wand at the ready, after Regulus Black or whoever he might be.
~ 0 ~
Even from a distance Fudge saw, that nothing was well in Hogwarts: The castle seemed strangely out of proportion. One of the towers glowed brightly purple, two others had moved themselves several meters away. From one of the rear parts thick reddish smoke rose, and over the entire side facing Fudge someone had written "Weasley Rules" - in glaring pink paint.
The sky was full of owls and students in colorful robes on broomsticks, of which one or the other hit by fireworks crashed and raced to the ground. Beings with black, white or gray wings circled cackling and croaking over the roofs of the castle and mad giggling girls seemed to be involved in a Quidditch game with majorly changed rules.
The large field under the heavenly hubbub reminded Fudge of quiditch as well, because it was just as crowded as the camp at the World Cup: Students were running hither and thither, in between adults rushed across the lawn, among which Fudge not only saw the already announced Death Eaters, but several members of the Order of the Phoenix. Three Lupins chased squealing girls, another half wolf, half man writhed around on the ground with a strange orange coloured Harry Potter meanwhile an avid Sirius Black stood next to them and applauded enthusiasticly.
Two other Siriuses chased a squealing Ron Weasley in the direction of the forbidden forest, followed by a wand swinging Hermione Granger, who was in turn followed by an unknown boy with green hair. A whole group of young Tom Riddles sat down by the lake and discussed angrily with each other; Ginny Weasley tried desperately to escape them, but did not succeed because they had shackled her to a book.
Fudge's gaze trailed over the mess and stopped at Hagrid's hut where no less than three Hagrids tried to get out of the door simultaneously, charred by a fire ball from inside the hut. In the front garden of the cottage two Neville Longbottoms knocked each other out with unsuccessful spells and a clearly unmotivated Luna Lovegood stood by and observed enraptured a strange animal, whose form shifted between lion, seal and lizard.
A cry tinged from the Forbidden Forest and out rushed Harry Potter and a scary looking man, brandishing the famous Gryffindor sword. The fugitives knocked over motionless students and fired one curse after another against a winged Voldemort, who howled heart-meltingly.
"Lucius," groaned Wingy-Voldemort. "Lucius, he just won't believe that we're his fathers!"
One of the Luciusses who just attempted to climb a couple more or less willing Pansy Parkinsons, disbanded the scene and came to aid the applicant Voldemort.
"This is all a misunderstanding", he yelped. "Harry Raymondo Veritas, it is true, please believe us!"
"What do you think of it?" Fudge whispered to Regulus Black, who suddenly struck him as being fairly reasonable. But he didn't get an answer. The young man's eyes brightened, a smile spread across his face and he took a step forward.
"She is so beautiful", he whispered, before galloping across the lawn where a red-haired girl awaited him smiling.
"Malfoy!" McGonagall's voice rang over the general ruckus. "Take your hands off Potter at once! And you, Zabini, stop helping him!"
Fudge turned and stared in bewilderment at a tangle of half-naked bodies, which rolled down the embankment onto him.
"Only in the rooms," shouted McGonagall. "Only in the rooms, how many times do I have to repeat that?"
The clew unraveled into three naked boys who took to their heels before the onrushing professor reached them.
"Severus, come and help me!" McGonagall exclaimed breathlessly. But Snape was completely occupied to keep a horde of crazy Potters, Malfoys, Senior and Junior, Voldemort, Hermione Grangers and some unknown girl at a distance.
His situation was hopeless: Whenever he cursed one of the devotees to the ground, another one took the spot and pestered Snape even more.
"Severus," McGonagall's voice now sounded panicked. "Your hair!"
Snape put his hand into the suddenly wondrous silky curls and searched his cloak frantically, until he found a bottle and drank hastily from it. This brief interruption was all the devotees needed: A Voldemort, Hermione Granger and a couple of Potters charged forward and buried Snape under themselves. McGonagall shot blindly into the crowd and finally pulled out a deranged, half-unconscious Snape from the heap.
"Fudge!" She screamed. "Do something!"
Fudge swallowed hard, then he ran and covered McGonagals retreat, who dragged Snape with her until they had fought their way through the crowd into the castle and finally leaned against the walls of the hall. The massive door closed behind them, and shut out the noise from the grounds.