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Harry Potter and the Whore of Slytherin Chapter 4

"Come to gloat, Dumbledore?" Cornelius Fudge asked bitterly as the old man was shown into his office. He didn't really think the meddling old fool would have bothered to come for such a mundane matter, but it made him feel better to snipe at him.

And since he was staring at the end of his political career, and perhaps even his freedom, anything that made him feel better was welcome.

"No, Cornelius, I haven't," Dumbledore replied calmly. "As it would happen, I've come to help you, if you wish."

Cornelius' eyes widened by only the slightest margin, although it took all the self-control he had. Help him....

"You want a puppet in the Minister's office," he stated bluntly, realizing what the man had to have in mind. "You think if you help me keep my seat, I'll have to do what you want." He regarded the old fool bitterly, wondering how it had come to this.

Because Dumbledore wasn't a fool, he realised. He'd known that You-Know-Who was back, and that eventually the truth would come out, and the harder Cornelius fought the idea, the worse it would look. He'd used his own ambition against him.

Dumbledore wasn't the fool. He was, and he'd been expertly played. He didn't really have a choice, did he? Besides... he might be ambitious, he might be greedy, but he was no follower of You-Know-Who, and if he was back, then having Dumbledore in control of the Ministry, openly or not, was the best thing that could happen.

"All right," he said, abruptly. "You have a deal. I'll do it."

Dumbledore regarded him with a hint of pity in his eyes. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Cornelius. If it were just your own actions, it might have been possible, but I'm afraid your... delegate to Hogwarts has destroyed any chance you might have had to salvage your career. All that I can do, I fear, is to ensure that you do not go to Azkaban for her crimes or your own."

Cornelius narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Were you aware that Dolores Umbridge— who was, I might point out, your hand-picked... liaison— forced more than one student to use a Blood Quill in detentions?"

Cornelius paled. "You must be joking," he protested, but his heart wasn't in it. Deep down, he'd always known Dolores could be disturbingly cruel. But he'd never thought she would go so far as to actively torture students.

"Sadly, I am not," Dumbledore replied. "Nor am I joking when I tell you that she was preparing to use the Cruciatus Curse on Harry Potter, before one of his friends managed to trick her, or when I say she admitted, in front of witnesses, to having sent the Dementors after him last summer."

Cornelius gripped the arms of his seat as the room swam around him. He tried to make sense of Dumbledore's words, but he couldn't. No matter how he looked at them, they continued to mean... they said...

Slowly, he realized that Dumbledore meant exactly what he said. "How?" he whispered, unconsciously. "How could she do such a thing?"

"As to that," Dumbledore said, shocking his attention back to to reality, "I cannot say for certain, but from what I have been told, I believe she is... well... obsessed with you, Cornelius. She seemed to truly believe you would condone the use of the Curse on Harry if it resulted in my capture, and that you would understand her actions with the Dementors if you knew."

Cornelius stared at him desperately. "You can't believe that!" he said, shaking. "Surely you can't think that I'd... that I'd... I wouldn't! Never!"

"No," Dumbledore said gently, "I don't agree with her. You are ambitious, and greedy, and something of a coward, but I have never thought you evil."

Stung, Cornelius jerked back, but he couldn't deny the description, as unflattering as it was. "What do you want, then?" he asked, wetting his dry lips. "You were right; there's no way I'll be Minister in a week. So what do you want?"

"You know that when the Aurors start looking into this, all the bribes you've taken will be discovered," Dumbledore said. "You'll spend time in Azkaban if you're convicted. However...."

"However?" Cornelius asked, after the silence had stretched out longer than he could bear.

"However, if a suspect cooperates with an investigation, it's possible for them to receive consideration in exchange for their help— including, if three Senior Aurors, the Head of the DMLE, and the Head of the Wizengamot agree, immunity from prosecution," Dumbledore said. "I am not concerned with the money you've received. I am concerned with ensuring that Lucius Malfoy and his like are not able to buy their way free once more."

"I'll do it," Cornelius said, instantly. He might not have known what Dolores was doing, but if the word got out, it wouldn't matter, unless he had some high-placed allies on his side. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement most definitely qualified, and for once he was grateful for Amelia Bones' uncorruptibility.

"I believe Amelia will have someone up to speak to you in a few minutes," Dumbledore said, and Cornelius realized that the man must have been certain he'd agree. "Before Auror Shacklebolt arrives, however, there's something else we need to take care of. I should be very much obliged if you would provide Conditional Use of Magic permits for some of the students."

Cornelius nodded, slowly. It made sense. "Potter and his friends?" he asked, digging in his desk for a piece of parchment.

"Indeed. In addition to Harry, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger, I should like permits for Ginevra Weasley and Pansy Parkinson."

Cornelius stopped in surprise, his hand still on the stack of parchment. "Parkinson?" he asked. "I'd hardly have considered her a friend of Potter. Isn't she practically engaged to Lucius's son?"

A bare hint of a smile twitched on Dumbledore's face. "Not as much as he might have believed," he said. "Ah, and as we're speaking of it, I would be obliged if you could provide her with a writ of emancipation, as well, so as to avoid... difficulties... with her parents."

Cornelius blinked, surprised. "I take it her parents wouldn't approve of her association with Potter?"

"I would expect to find that such was indeed the case," Dumbledore agreed. "While I could always be mistaken, it's best to be prepared, all the same, don't you think?"

As Dumbledore turned to open the door in response to a knock, Cornelius bent to filling out the requested documents, wondering just what other things Dumbledore had prepared for.

Harry's ride back to Little Whinging from King's Cross had been filled with Vernon Dursley's muttered threats and insults. If he'd had the energy, he'd have been worried about what would happen once they arrived at Privet Drive, but he wasn't. He didn't care, anyway.

He didn't care about anything.

He'd managed to fake it, managed to put up a false front for his friends, but he couldn't do it anymore. His relatives didn't care if he did, and he just didn't have the energy.

The car pulled into the driveway, and his uncle turned, snarling, before he'd even cut the engine. "What are you just sitting there for, boy? Get a move on, or I'll lock you out of the house. If you think I'm scared of those freaks, you've got another think coming!"

Harry stared at him for a moment, then opened his door and went around to the back of the car, waiting for his uncle to open the boot. Instead of unlocking it, however, his uncle's fist caught him upside the head, leaving him sprawling and dazed on the ground.

"Don't you look at me like that, boy!" his uncle spat, his face purple with rage. "I'll have respect from you, or by god there'll be more where that came from!"

"No, as a matter of fact, I don't believe there will be," said a voice Harry recognized almost immediately, though he'd never have expected to hear it in Surrey, of all places. He turned his head to see Pansy Parkinson with her wand pointed at his uncle's head. "You won't be abusing Harry this summer, at the least, or ever again if I have any say in the matter."

"Ha!" Vernon scoffed. "You can't fool me, girl. I know you can't use your freakish stuff outside of school! I take it you're one of his slags? You can just get off my bloody lawn— I'm not letting any of his whores in my house! I wouldn't let him in if I had a choice! Get!"

Parkinson stared at him coolly for a moment, and then, without changing expression, said, "Petrificus Totalus."

Watching the expression on his uncle's face as the curse hit him would normally have been something that made Harry cheer in delight, but he couldn't muster the energy to care. Watching his uncle slowly topple over onto the hard concrete of the drive would have been even better, but somehow it just didn't matter. Not anymore.

Nothing mattered.

"Now," Parkinson said, her voice as hard as Harry had ever heard it, "Let me explain how it's going to be this summer. Harry's staying here. That means that we're staying with him. We have permits to allow us to use magic this summer, including Harry. If you harass us, we'll harass you right back. If you hurt Harry again, I'll hurt you, worse, and I suspect that she will do something far worse."

"I'll turn the lawn pink. Or maybe orange. Or maybe it'll change colors at random," Ginny Weasley said sweetly, the look in her eyes completely belying the smile on her face. Harry wondered faintly when she'd gotten there, and why she was acting friendly towards Parkinson. "We're here to take care of Harry, and that's what we're going to do. We'll stay out of your way as much as possible, but we're required to eat at least one meal a day with you."

"If you don't want us to stay," Parkinson continued, "We'll leave. All three of us. In three to eight hours, the blood wards that protect you from the Death Eaters will fall, and they will be able to find you. Sometime after that, you'll be dead. There's no question of 'if'; they'll find you and kill you. The only question is how long they'll torture you first."

"Actually," Ginny said to Petunia, who was screaming soundlessly, "they might leave you alive, since you're his aunt. They'd hope he'd try to come save you." Her face contorted in anger. "I'd stun him if he tried. You aren't worth it."

"So," Parkinson said, regarding Vernon as if he were some sort of insect whose life was utterly irrelevant. "You have a choice. Do we stay, or do we leave you here to die?"

He glared at her, impotently, and she smirked. "Oh, right. You can't answer unless I release you from the binding. I'll let you up, but if you try anything, I'll hit you with something a lot more painful than the Full Body Bind. Like the Bone-Breaking Curse, or maybe just a Blasting Curse. Understand?"

She waited another moment, then murmured, "Finite Incantatem," with her wand aimed warily at Harry's uncle, well out of his reach.

"You— You— How dare you use that freakishness where anyone might see you?" Vernon snarled, as if ignoring everything Parkinson had said.

Lifting one eyebrow, Parkinson said, "Because you hit him where everyone could see, of course. Let's get this straight right now— whatever you do to him, I'll do worse to you. And so will Weasley."

Vernon's face paled, and he looked over at Harry. "W-Weasley?" he stuttered. "L-like those freaks who blew up the fireplace?"

Harry nodded, feeling oddly detached from everything. Maybe this was just an odd dream, and when he woke up Sirius would still be alive. Pansy Parkinson showing up at the Dursleys' was absurd enough, but seeing Ginny apparently working with her was simply too much.

The dull ache in his head banished that comforting thought, however. He knew it wasn't a dream. Sirius really was dead, and he really was the person who would have to face Voldemort in the end.

Ginny smiled at Vernon maliciously. "I think you met my brothers," she said. "George, and Fred? The pranksters?" Now it was Dudley's turn to pale, and Ginny turned her smile on him. "I'm sure I could get them to send me a care package... from their new prank store. If I needed one, I mean."

"All right," Vernon snapped, looking at them. "You can stay. But he still has to do his chores."

Ginny shook her head. "No. But if you give us the list— a reasonable list, mind you— we'll see that they get done. I'm sure one of his friends will be happy to take care of them for you. Of course, Dobby's even more protective of Harry than we are, so I'd watch what you say around him."

The thought of his magic-hating relatives being faced with Dobby should really have caused some kind of reaction, Harry thought, and he wondered if he should be worried that it didn't. But he didn't really have the energy to care.

"All right," his uncle finally said, grinding his teeth audibly. "But none of your freakishness in the house, understand?"

"I think you misunderstand," Parkinson said, coldly. "We're not making a deal here. We'll do our best to stay out of your way and not upset you beyond your obvious irrational hatred of our existence, but I for one have no intention whatsoever of allowing your fear of magic to jeopardize my preparation for my studies next term."

Vernon glared at her for several seconds, but finally sighed. "Fine. But I don't like it."

"You don't have to," Parkinson said. "This might help, however." She held out a thick envelope.

"What is it?" Vernon asked suspiciously, making no move to take it.

"Six thousand pounds," she said. "To compensate you for the additional costs involved in our presence."

"At least someone had the sense to realize that," Vernon said, snatching the envelope out of her hand. "All right, then, get upstairs, all of you. I don't want to see you until dinner, got it?"

Parkinson nodded, and looked at Petunia and Dudley. "If you scream when Weasley lifts the silencing charm, you'll attract attention," she said casually, and Petunia snapped her mouth closed, glaring.

"Better," Ginny said. "Finite Incantatem."

"Well, boy?" Vernon snapped. "Are you going to get your stuff, or not?"

Slowly, Harry got back to his feet, still feeling distant. As he slowly pulled his trunk out of the boot, he heard Parkinson whispering something to Ginny.

"We have to talk. He's worse than I thought."