Christmas came and went, but no one really felt like celebrating. Harry walked the halls of Hogwarts, along with Hermione.
"Did you hear about Neville?" Hermione asked him.
Harry nodded mutely. The curses Neville had been hit with had been beyond even the abilities of the wizard hospital to cure. He was even now lying in the irreversible spell damage ward, close to his parents. They still didn't recognize him.
"I wish there was more we could do," Hermione said, softly.
The pair walked in silence, in another circuit around their path. A month ago, each would be working a separate circuit, but since Fudge had ordered that the turncoat students remain at school, until such time as it could be proven they weren't under the Imperious curse, Dumbledore had ordered the prefects to work in teams of two. Suddenly, the tip of Harry's wand began to glow. Tapping it, he said, "Potter,"
"Just checking in, mate. Nothing along the Ravenclaw path."
"Thanks Ron," Harry said, tapping his wand again. Check-in had been Harry's idea. To his surprise, none of the other prefects had been against the idea.
"We should get to the feast Har--" began Hermione a few minutes later, when their watch was over.
"Harry, please report to my office," said Dumbledore, via Harry's wand.
"On my way Professor," Harry replied. Together, he and Hermione walked to the Headmaster's office, where she left him. "I'll see you at the feast, Harry," she said, and was gone.
Harry stepped past the gargoyle, which had moved out of the way without Harry's having to say anything.
"Yes, Professor?" asked Harry, once he'd stepped into the headmaster's office.
"In light of recent events, the Minister wishes a meeting with you." Dumbledore replied.
"Sorry?" Harry asked.
"The Minister wants to see you," Dumbledore repeated, patiently.
"Oh. Did he say when?" Harry asked.
"Right now, actually," came a new voice.
"Sirius? I thought you were with-" began Harry.
"Not today. This takes precedence." Sirius replied.
Harry stood for a moment next to the statue of magical brethren, trying to catch his breath. "I hate traveling by Floo," he thought. Sirius waited a moment, before taking Harry's shoulder and steering him toward the check-in point. Harry handed his wand to the witch at the check-in station, and watched as she scanned it, and then handed it back to him. She did the same thing with Sirius's wand. She then handed each of them a visitor's pass, and waved them away.
Silently, the two walked down the long twisted corridors, until they reached a door marked "Restricted Area. Authorized Personnel only." Standing at either side of the door were two wizards, whom Harry speculated could rip him apart with their bare hands.
"May I help you?" asked one of them, with an ominous scowl.
"We're here to see the Minister. We have an appointment," Sirius said, patiently.
"Let me see your badge and pass," the guard said gruffly.
Both visitors handed their badges over, and Sirius handed the guard the appointment pass.
"Sirius Black, eh. Never thought I'd see the day when you left Azkaban. Damn shame if you ask me," said the guard, turning his eyes to Harry's pass.
"And you would be?" the guard began, but before Harry could answer, he gasped.
"Harry Potter!" the wizard exclaimed, dropping the objects to the ground.
"Careful, Ernie. Could be a trick," said the other guard.
Harry sighed, and lifted his fringe.
Both guards gawked for a moment.
"My apologies, Mr. Potter. Mr. Black," said Ernie, while the other guard nodded, opening the door.
Sirius snorted, and the pair entered the under secretary's office. The under-secretary sat behind a desk, writing furiously on a piece of parchment. She didn't look up when Harry stepped up to her desk.
"We're here to see the Minister of Magic," Harry said, after a moment.
The woman didn't look up.
"Excuse me?" Harry said. The woman still ignored him.
Sirius cleared his throat, harshly. "Excuse me" he said with a bit more force then Harry had, with no better luck.
"We're," Harry stopped. "Sonorus," he whispered to himself.
"WE'RE HERE TO SEE THE MINISTER OF MAGIC, IF YOU DON'T MIND!" he yelled, in spite of the Sonorus charm. Sirius grinned at his godson. "So like James," he thought. Harry released the charm.
"Now the woman did look up. "So sorry. Didn't notice-ah, Mr. Potter!" said the woman, smiling sweetly, "I trust you've been well?"
"Er. Right," said Harry.
"Really? Can I get you some tea, while you wait?"
"No, I--" began Harry.
"Sure you won't have any?
"No, we really--" began Harry again.
"Oh, come now, bad manners you know," the woman said, looking slightly scandalized.
Harry raised his eyes toward the heavens. "No, thank you."
"Well! And who are you?
"Sirius Black," said Sirius.
"I see," her voice had grown considerably colder with this.
"And you are?" asked Sirius, just as coldly.
"Dolores Umbridge. Just a moment."
Harry glanced around the office, taking in the lacey table clothes, some vases with dried flowers in them, and then he noticed a collection of ornamental plates, each decorated with a large technicolour kitten wearing a different bow around its neck. He gasped. She still had these?!?
"What's wrong, Harry?" Sirius asked. Harry pointed to the plates.
"Disgusting," Sirius lamented.
After a few moments, Umbridge walked back into the room, holding three mugs of tea.
"Here you are," she said in a high-pitched voice.
"But, we didn't ask for this!" Harry said.
"Couldn't you have just conjured it?" Sirius asked, annoyed.
"But of course not. Conjured tea is nothing on the real thing," she said, still in that same sickly sweet voice.
"WE NEED TO SEE THE MINISTER!" Harry yelled. Umbridge gaped.
"Indeed you do, Mr. Potter. Come in, please," said Cornelius, having stepped out of his office.
"Finally," Harry said.
"Just a moment, Harry," Sirius said, before moving over to one of the vases and pouring his tea over the dried flower. Umbridge glared at him. Sirius grinned, and then stepped in Fudge's office.
"Welcome Mr. Potter, Mr. Black," Fudge said, crisply.
"Thank you," Harry said. Sirius nodded.
"Sit down, won't you?" Cornelius asked.
The two sat, and Fudge steeled his hands, looking Harry directly in the eye.
"Now, Mr. Black, I'll have to ask you to step outside," Fudge said.
"I'd rather he stay, if it's all right," Harry said.
"Very well," Fudge sighed. "I want you to tell me exactly what happened that night before Christmas."
"The night of the attack," Harry said, flatly.
"Death Eaters' came out of the forest--" Harry started
"Death Eater impersonators you mean," Fudge interrupted.
"No, I mean Death Eaters," Harry said, firmly.
"As you wish. Go on," Fudge said.
"They were casting spells I've never heard before. They were trying to take down the wards, to get into Hogwarts." Harry said.
"Go on." Fudge said, grabbing a Quick-Quotes Quill and enchanting it to write what Harry said.
"Well, some of the other advanced students, as well as the seventh years, sort of gathered around the house tables to try and defend the younger students, and we'd been standing there for a few minutes when I saw Draco Malfoy trying to overturn what the teachers were doing," Harry said, but stopped when Fudge yanked the quill off of the parchment.
"What? Mr. Malfoy you say?" Fudge asked, heatedly.
"Well, yes. Anyway, I distracted him, and he challenged me to a duel," Harry continued.
"A duel? Tell me about it,"
Harry spent the next fifteen minute describing the duel in exact detail, Fudge shaking his head all the while.
"All right Mr. Potter. What happened after the duel?"
"I had another one," Harry said.
"Blaise Zambini. Apparently, he took offense to my having beaten Malfoy," Harry said.
"I see. What happened next?"
"The other students joined in, along with the turncoat students," Harry replied.
"It's not been proven they weren't under the imperious curse," Fudge said sharply.
"True," Harry said, deciding not to fight that battle.
"Harry, do you honestly think this was the work of the Dark Lord?" Fudge asked.
"Yes." replied Harry, flatly.
"I see," said Fudge. "I'm sure the events of that battle were traumatic for you, Harry, but I can't accept your interpretation of these events. You yourself defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I simply cannot risk creating a panic where no reason for one exists."
"What?" Harry gasped.
"I think you're lying, Harry. It seems clear to me that you are simply seeking more attention for yourself."
"Come off it Fudge! How can you ignore the testimony of the Boy-Who-Lived?" Sirius yelled, grabbing the Minister's arm. For a moment, Fudge's arm was bare.
Harry, Sirius, and the Minister froze. Each stared for a moment at the Dark Mark, clearly burned into the Minister's arm.
Sirius drew his wand, quickly, forcing Harry behind him. Fudge drew his as well.
"Expelliarmus!" Fudge yelled. Sirius dived out of the way.
"You'll never leave this office alive!" Fudge screamed.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Harry yelled, having drawn his own wand, now.
"Aurors to the Minister's office, priority one!" Fudge yelled into the orb.
Instantly the sounds of footsteps and a shattered door reached Harry. The door to Fudge's office burst open.
"Flamarus!" Sirius yelled, catching Fudge's robes on fire. One of the Aurors tore the jacket away from the rest of Fudge's robes, exposing his arms. The Aurors turned to Sirius and Harry, wands leveled.
"No! Look at his arms!" Harry yelled.
The Aurors didn't move.
"He's a Death Eater!" said Harry.
One of the Aurors snorted.
"Locomotor sleeves!" Harry yelled, diving out of the way.
Several stunning spells hit the area where Harry had just been, but the damage was done. One of the men had seen Fudge's mark.
"Great Merlin," the man whispered.
"Blimey," whispered another.
The other Aurors banished Harry and Sirius from the office, magically sealing it. Harry landed on the floor several feet away.
"Ouch," Harry said.
"Really," said Sirius.
The sounds of battle coming from inside the Minister's office intensified. Harry heard one of the Aurors scream, as another put the Cruciatus curse on him. The sounds of wood smashing, glass breaking, and men screaming were all Harry heard for the next minute, before he suddenly whipped his head around, and noticed that Dolores Umbridge was no where to be seen.
At that point, the door burst open. Three men held two Aurors and the Minister in magical body binds.
Harry and Sirius stared, as the Minister was dragged away. The look of fear frozen on his face chilled Harry to the bone.
"Yes, Harry?" Sirius asked, glancing at him.
"Ron's never gonna believe this."
"There are a lot of people who won't, Harry. Or at least, they won't want to," Sirius replied, dryly. "Knowing you've spent your life working for a Death Eater,"
"Yeah. We should get back to Hogwarts. Dumbledore's going to want to know about this," Harry said.
"That eager for another Floo trip, are you?" Sirius joked.
"Shut up, Sirius."
Sirius laughed a forced laugh, and the two stepped into the Floo network.
A/N: The description of Umbridge's office comes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.