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Albus cast his eye quickly over the Daily Prophet as he read it in his office. He found that Grimmauld Place held no home for him when it was so eerily quiet, inhabited only by Dobby the house elf who was rather too eager to please. Instead he was spending much of his time in his office and in his personal quarters in the school – taking advantage of the peace and quiet, yet homely feel which the castle offered. Sadly there was always a price to pay and his appeared to be in irritation. The portraits in his office were always too happy to offer their advice and give their input at any time possible. It would have been fine, had their advice ever been worth much but that was a rare occurrence.

It had greatly displeased him to find that the last time he had tried to visit Cornelius he had been out, although he was certain that he had escaped just before he reached the building. He was going to visit again today in the hopes that he could catch the cowardly man before he could exit the building, or at least hide amongst the Aurors.

His eyes ran slowly over the obituaries, noting the names of those who had passed on and many of them were familiar to him. There were many more than usual and the deaths had been growing as of late. Fudge could surely not ignore the fact that Voldemort had returned and his Death Eaters were out on the loose any longer; it was becoming a matter of some importance and people would not stand for it!

Then again, perhaps they would. People, as a whole, were lazy things, the ultimate procrastinators. They would leave things as late as possible, always putting them off and this would be no different. They would not comment on the fact that so many people appeared to be dying on a daily basis but would assume that someone else had done first and it was therefore unnecessary for them to do so.

Albus sighed as he set the paper down and took a sip of his coffee. He did not eat in the Great Hall any longer; he found that it rather depressed him without the students and he preferred the company of the portraits to chatter along in the background and Fawkes to occasionally trill a cheerful song which never failed to lift his spirits.

Outside the rain was drumming against the window panes and it was a rather disappointing summer day. It was early in the morning although Albus’ thoughts couldn’t help but wander to those imprisoned at Voldemort’s service, would they know what the weather was like? Probably not, nor would they know the time of day if his memory of Hagrid’s recount served him correctly.

“I wonder if they still know who they are, the Order I mean,” Phineas said and there were scowls and mutterings from the other portraits, all of whom were quite disappointed that Phineas had awoken at all. “After all, they have been tortured repeatedly most likely, what’s to stop them being tortured right into insanity?”

“Oh do be quiet, Phineas!” Dilys snapped at him. None of them were in the best of spirits but as a former Healer and carer of the people, she was most concerned for their wellbeing.

“How did you become headmaster?” Fortescue asked him coolly from his portrait next to that of the sarcastic portrait. “Don’t tell me you bought your way to the position!”

“No, I did not purchase the position of Headmaster, thank you very much,” Phineas retorted, “and in fact I was elected by the Wizengamot at the time.”

“I seem to recall that the Black family took up half the Wizengamot at that time,” Everard added to the conversation, narrowing his eyes at Phineas.

“Dark days,” Dilys muttered.

“What was that?” Phineas snapped at her and when he was greeted with silence he smirked and added, “I thought not.”

“Please be a little quieter,” Dumbledore said to them and they looked at him in surprise; he barely ever made a request of them, “I’m trying to think of a way to get into Azkaban and out of it without losing any lives.”

“Impossible task!” Phineas said, even more loudly than before. “Besides, I don’t see why you don’t just go to the Ministry now and get to Fudge before he can even attempt to escape.”

Dumbledore glanced at him and appeared to be thinking things through before a slight smile touched his lips and he nodded.

“That sounds like a good idea,” he said. “I shall leave directly.” He swallowed the rest of his tea and walked towards the fireplace, reaching out to the Floo.

“Now remember what we’ve been through Dumbledore, you throw the powder into the fire and say very clearly–” What it was that Dumbledore was to say very clearly, he never discovered as he stepped into the fireplace and into the swirling transportation system.

“Ah, Cornelius!” he greeted the man warmly as he stepped out of the fireplace in Cornelius Fudge’s private office, “How very nice to see you although I am afraid this is not a social call and unfortunately I have ulterior motives.”

“Now see here Dumbledore! You can’t just come barging into my office!” Fudge got to his feet but Dumbledore settled a hand onto his shoulder and pushed him back down into his chair before taking a seat opposite him himself.

“Oh, Every Flavour Beans,” Albus said, noticing the bowl of sweets on the table, “don’t mind if I do!” He smiled inwardly at Fudge who was becoming annoyed rather quickly.

“All right Dumbledore, what is it?” Fudge asked impatiently in such a manner he would ask a small child just what they wanted before shooing them out of a room to resume his hobby of wallpaper watching. “I don’t have all day, you know.”

“How odd it is then that when I arrived you were watching your Newton’s Cradle and eating these most marvellous beans here,” Albus smiled cheerfully but Fudge did not return it.

“I am about five seconds away from pressing this button here,” Fudge said, pointing to an amusingly large, red button on his desk which would either call security or blast him through the window depending on the mood of the maintenance staff. Albus was rather hoping that he had been less than pleasant to them recently but he mustn’t get his hopes up, he decided.

“Really, and what will that button do?” Albus asked him with a slight smile on his lips, wondering whether he would answer by pressing it and saying ‘this’. The consequences could be potentially rather amusing.

“It will call security, that’s what!” Cornelius snapped at him, “Some of the most highly trained Aurors reside in this building and are at my very doorway!”

“Really? And what do you think the general public should think of such information that your best Aurors ensure the security of your sweet supply rather than protect them, especially in such dark times?” Albus asked. He was still smiling, although the twinkle had left his eyes. Cornelius was also no longer smiling.

“I assure you that they would believe that the protection of me, their Minister for Magic and the man upon who the whole Wizarding World rests is more important,” Cornelius said haughtily and Albus refrained from laughing.

“That’s rather interesting but when Voldemort takes over again I think that their point of view may be quite different, most notably on who they would like their Minister of Magic to be,” Albus said lightly, helping himself to another bean. Earwax twice in a decade!

“Are you threatening me?!” he demanded rather loudly, perhaps in the hopes that Aurors would come bursting into the room at any second. They probably would have done had Cornelius not put silencing charms around his office in order that whoever entered his office would not be overheard by any of Dumbledore’s spies he suspected of being in the building.

“No, you know perfectly well that should I wish to be Minister of Magic I would not need to threaten you to become it,” Albus said in the same airy manner before adding, “nor would I need to manipulate the media to maintain it.”

“How dare you?! Get out of my office!” Fudge yelled, really hoping that the Aurors would hear him now.

“Now don’t be hasty, Cornelius,” Albus said to him, once again rising to his feet and pushing the man opposite him back into his chair when his emotions got the better of him. “Besides, you have yet to hear the reason I am here.” This did quiet Cornelius, who was rather intrigued as to what assistance Dumbledore would require from him.

“Go ahead then, but make it quick,” he snapped and watched the old man over the desk, his finger resting against the large red button.

Dumbledore did not take long in explaining the situation to Cornelius, although he neglected to mention that various Death Eaters had posed as members of his staff and student body for several months; he knew that would not increase his favour. Not that he had much of it to begin with.

“So you expect me to put my own personal safety at risk so that my best Aurors can go storming into a prison supposedly filled with Death Eaters and He Who Must Not Be Named to save an attention seeking child and your own personal favourite Ministry defiants, not to mention a Dark Creature!?” Cornelius was incredulous, to say the least.

“Yes,” Albus clarified and Cornelius laughed, he actually laughed and it was a sound which probably had not been heard in quite some time.

“Contrary to your apparent delusions, Dumbledore,” Cornelius snarled, “Voldemort has not returned to power, nor has he taken over Azkaban!”

“That’s quite strange,” Albus said in reply, sounding rather baffled, “because I was quite certain that a number of your own Ministry workers, and by a number I refer to around twenty of them, witnessed Voldemort in the main Atrium at the end of last year.”

“Preposterous!” Cornelius shouted at him, as if trying to drown out the truth with his own voice. “I will not sit here and listen to this mockery any longer, I ask you kindly to leave now before I am forced to take serious action!” He pressed the red button on his desk a number of times before Albus smiled at him and got up from his seat. He walked towards the fireplace and felt rather disappointed that his request had not been granted, although it did appear that the maintenance staff were less than pleased with Cornelius. Several laughs could be heard as the Minister of Magic rocketed out of the large window and into the street. Deciding that to stay around for the after effects could be rather foolish, Dumbledore took some Floo powder and quickly stepped through the flames.

“Headmaster’s office, Hogwarts,” he said clearly as the flames engulfed him.

“Another successful visit to the Moron of Magic,” Phineas said and looked quite impressed with his own joke. The rest of the portraits did not however, and gave him unsurprisingly cool looks in return.

“Alas, it was not a particularly productive visit, although I did get a handful of Every Flavour Beans,” Albus told them. Dilys rolled her eyes in her frame above him.

“Honestly Albus! If you keep eating them in such a manner you’ll need a new set of teeth and you know they’re an absolute fortune to charm!” she told him for the third time in the past two days.

“I’ll just get Filius to charm me a set should I require them,” Albus said to her and she sniffed.

“Yes, that’s assuming that he’s still alive, of course,” Phineas said but he remained ignored, “And then you’ll have to get him out of Azkaban first.”

“I’m going to do that, and soon,” Albus told him. “I just need a good plan and some people to assist me first.”

“No one in their right mind would assist you, Dumbledore,” Phineas smirked but no one responded; it appeared that the rest of the portraits had taken to ignoring him in the hopes that it would silence the unruly picture.

“No one in the Ministry, at any rate,” Dilys added.

“Amelia Bones might,” Phineas said thoughtfully. “You always said that she ought to be the next Minister, not that anyone really cares for your opinion.” Albus turned and looked at him with nothing short of surprise and amazement on his face. Phineas had actually been of some help to him without requesting it. It was surely a day to remember.

“You might just have been some assistance, Phineas,” Albus told him. Phineas looked quite horrified at the idea and the rest of the portraits looked rather amused.

“You’ll be assisting the poor next and chatting to Mrs Figg when she goes to Grimmauld Place,” Fortescue told him with a smile.

“Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!” Phineas yelled at them and Albus laughed as he stepped towards the fireplace. “Don’t forget the Floo powder; we wouldn’t want you getting set ali—” Albus smiled as he travelled back to the Ministry of Magic, the last of Phineas’ words drowned out in the roar of the fires around him.

He stepped out of the fireplace into the second floor of the Ministry of Magic, not appearing in the main Atrium for fear of running into Cornelius and being loudly removed from the building. Walking quickly down the corridor, he easily located the office he needed:

Amelia Bones
Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement

He knocked once and upon hearing an ‘enter’ from within, he opened the door.

Amelia Bones was sat behind her desk and, upon seeing Albus enter the room, she smiled warmly and got to her feet to welcome him.

“Good afternoon, Albus,” she said to him, “and what can I do for you today?”

“I have a rather… unusual request for you, Madam Bones,” he informed her and went on to explain the situation to her, although once again he neglected to mention the fact that Death Eaters had posed as members of his staff and student body for very nearly a year.

She listened to him intently throughout, giving him her full attention and considering the request he asked of her but at the end she shook her head.

“I am sorry Albus, but as much as I would like to be able to help you there isn’t anything I can do; Cornelius has already denied you the use of his Aurors and even if I were to act unawares of this I could well lose my standing in the Ministry,” she told him and Albus nodded. She was a valuable person to have on the inside of the Ministry, even if she was not a member of the Order; she was a fair and unbiased woman in a position of power which was a rarity under Cornelius’ reign. He would not have her removed from her position because of him, no, he would get the Aurors he needed in other ways.

“Worth a try, I suppose,” Albus said to her and smiled slightly. She smiled in return and clearly saw what his next plan of action was to be. He rose from his seat and walked to the door of her office.

“Good luck,” she said to him as he reached the door. He nodded and left the room, leaving Madam Bones wondering whether he could steal the necessary Aurors and break into Azkaban, free more than a dozen people held there and return alive, all without Cornelius realising that his sweet supply was open to attack. The difficult part would almost certainly be distracting Cornelius for long enough to get hold of the people he wanted, and Madam Bones decided that she could perhaps be of some assistance after all.

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