A/N: Thank you again to those who have taken the time to review. It is the constant reminder that people are reading and enjoying this story that drives me to work faster. Faster is not always better however, and if you see something that you think I could be doing better, please don't hesitate to point it out. At the request of a few readers I have set up a mailing list. If you wish to be alerted of updates through e-mail, just leave me yours in a review. Now on with the chapter. Chapter Three (Part Two): The End of an Era It was not at all as Harry had imagined it, it was far worse. The Portkey had set them down facing a sheer cliff which Harry was unable to see the bottom of due to the excessive amounts of fog that shrouded everything. In fact, it looked like the entire island that he was now standing on was floating on top of a murky gray cloud. The waves crashing onto the rocks below were the only indication that they weren't indeed floating far up in the night sky. When Harry turned around he caught his first glimpse of Azkaban, and his stomach leaped up into his throat. It looked more like a giant tower than anything else. There were no windows that he could see, and there was no light at all emanating from within. In fact, even though the moon was shining brightly, it almost looked as though its light was purposely avoiding the area around the prison. "Never did like this place much," breathed Fudge. Harry could feel the handcuffs that the Minister was holding begin to tremble underneath his hand before Cornelius pulled them away from Dawlish and Harry. "Dawlish," he snapped, "You go on ahead and leave Potter here with me. See if you can't help the Aurors who are already here." "But you won't be safe he-" "That was an order Dawlish! There will be a team of Hit Wizards here presently, and they will be more than adequate to keep me protected." "And Potter?" asked Dawlish, though he looked like he already knew the answer. "What about him?" Fudge gave a dismissive wave with his hand, and Dawlish nodded and took off towards the prison at a brisk trot. Harry felt a surge of anger at his being treated with such obvious disinterest. "What are you planning on doing to me?" he asked, believing that the Minister had some sinister plot up his sleeve. Fudge ignored him. "I think we need to get a closer look, Potter," he said, all but confirming Harry's suspicions. "I'll need to know who my enemies are exactly." "You should figure out who your friends are first!" cried Harry. "I'm on your side but you still treat me like I was Voldemort's closest ally!" Fudge poi nted his wand at Harry's head and scowled. "Listen Potter, I'm the one holding the wand in this relationship. You will not speak to me like that again." Harry said nothing, but he hoped the withering glare he was giving the Minister spoke for him. "You and I are not on the same side," Cornelius continued, "You have done nothing but try to undermine my authority as Minister of Magic since the day you met Albus Dumbledore. You have told vicious lies about me, subverted my attempts to keep you safe, and deliberately disobeyed rules that I've made, all to make me look like a fool." Fudge was now livid with anger, and lime green sparks were shooting out the end of his wand. "No Mr. Potter, you are my enemy. You took me to the brink of political ruin, but now I get to fight back." "Don't you see?" Harry was desperate now to make the Minister understand. "This is what Voldmort wants! He wants us to fight each other so that he can return to power!" Fudge was having none of it. "Silencio," he muttered, and Harry found that he was no longer able to speak no matter how much he moved his mouth. "You know," began Fudge, appearing to be in deep thought. "I hadn't considered it before, but it does seem to make sense... you and Dumbledore conspired together to bring Voldemort back to life." Harry's eyes went wide with disbelief and he made wild movements with his arms. Fudge paid him no heed. "I was right, he didn't come back after the Tri-wizard tournament, oh no. I see what's happening. You brought him back on purpose didn't you Potter? You and Dumbledore wanted to be the heroes of the Wizarding World again. You can't fool me Mr. Potter, you can't fool Cornelius Fudge." Harry had never felt so helpless in his life. Here he was being accused of terrible things with no way of getting his side of the story out. For the first time he truly appreciated what Sirius had been forced to do for all those years. Fudge pocketed the rusty handcuffs and took hold of Harry's arm in much the same manner that Dawlish had earlier, though the Auror's grip was far stronger, and led him off towards the base of the tower. They had only taken a few steps when a voice rang out from behind them. "Minister! Please stay back here at a safe distance." Harry looked back over his shoulder to see a group of Aurors and Hit Wizards that had just arrived on the island. The one who had spoken, a middle aged woman with flowing gray hair was standing closest to them and she was now giving Harry a quick once over. He heard a sharp intake of breath as her eyes reached his face. She didn't say anything however. "Don't tell me how to do my job," barked Fudge before he once again began walking towards Azkaban. By now they were close enough that Harry could just make out jets of green and red light streaking through the night air. Mercifully the sounds of the battle had yet to travel this far. Most of the witches and wizards that had appeared now passed them at a run to join the battle, but two stopped running one on either side of the linked duo of Harry and the Minister. Glancing at the one beside Fudge he recognized Kingsley Shacklebolt, head held high and wand at the ready. Beside himself was the gray haired witch who had called out to the Minister. When Harry looked up at her face she gave him a wink. "Wotcher," she mouthed. Harry felt a surge of relief watch over him. The Order of the Phoenix was on its way, they'd show up and keep all of the prisoners from escaping. They'd get him away from Fudge. But they walked on with nary a word being spoken. The closer they got to the base of the tower the colder the air began to get. The Minister had been shaking farther out, but now even Harry was beginning to shiver and he could see his breath hanging in front of him. To make matters worse, he began to hear screams and shouts, though to be honest he wasn't certain that they weren't inside his own head. The happy thought that the Order was going to come and join the fight left him. Where the hell were they anyway? He could now make out individual participants in the battle, and he watched with interest as Dawlish sent a flash of orange light at the nearest Death Eater, then whirled to block an attack that had been launched at his back. He certainly seemed capable of taking care of himself. Elsewhere on the battlefield things were not going so well. Several Aurors were laid out flat on the cold hard ground, while several others looked to be losing their battles. It was a matter of numbers, and the Death Eaters combined with the escaped prisoners had the upper hand. Conspicuous in their absence though were the Dementors, which Harry could not see at all. He could certainly feel them however, his lungs were starting to scream at him to get somewhere warmer; each breath brought freezing air down his throat where it seemed to lodge permanently in his stomach. Harry needed to act, to do something useful to try and save these people. Already several were dead, a flash of green light and a scream welcomed another to their ranks, but here he was, just standing idly by watching people get murdered. He yanked his arm free from Fudge's weakening grasp, and made a grab for the wand that he held in his other hand. Unfortunately Fudge was just a bit ahead of him. "Oh no you don't," he snarled, though his breathing too seemed labored. "I'm not going to give you the pleasure of doing me harm with my own wand." Harry tried to yell at Fudge that he just wanted to help, but he was still doomed to silence. Fudge made a motion to Kingsley, who walked behind Harry and pinned both of his arms down to his sides. Harry couldn't help but notice that he was very gentle about it however. But while Harry's attention had been diverted by his escape attempt, the Dementors had made their entrance onto the battlefield. They were streaming through an opening at the base of the tower, their long black hooded cloaks appearing to glide along on top of the mist shrouded ground. The Aurors that were still fighting immediately turned and ran or pulled various objects from their pocket and disappeared into thin air. Those that were on the ground did not fare as well. Harry watched in horror as the Dementors encircled each and feasted on whatever life was remaining in those unfortunate bodies. "Expacto Patronum!" he heard Tonks cry from beside him. He had been so engrossed in the horrifying scene before him that he had not realized there was a group of Dementors coming straight at them, their rattling breath removing the last vestiges of warmth from their surroundings. The moon, which had been bright to begin with was now invisible. Tonks's attempt at conjuring a Patronus amounted to nothing more than a thin wisp of silver which the Dementors easily avoided. Harry felt Kingsley let go of his arms and raise his own wand, and he could hear Fudge yelling, "Expacto Patronum!" as well, but his mind was rapidly losing it's grip on reality. "Not Harry! Please not Harry!" he heard his mother cry as he sank to his knees. "There's nothing you can do, Harry... nothing.... He's gone." Remus Lupin's voice broke the news Harry had still yet to come to terms with. He had to get out of here, he'd surely have his soul sucked out if he couldn't escape. He struggled to get to his feet trying as hard as he could to think happy thoughts, but nothing would come. A sudden flash of silver light interrupted his thinking and warmed him considerably. Kingsley Shacklebolt had managed to conjure a Patronus, an enormous ethereal hawk which swooped down and grasped one of the Dementors in its talons, and with each flap of its wings pushed the weightless Dementors backwards. The voices slowly left Harry's head. Fudge had lowered his wand and was now attempting to get the Portkey out of his robe pocket. "Not so fast Fudge." The slow drawl of Lucius Malfoy startled the Minister and he dropped the Portkey on the ground just as he got it out of his pocket. Harry turned to look at the face of the man he had helped place in Azkaban. Lucius's normally pale gaunt face was now an ashen gray color, and his skin was so tightly stretched his chin, Harry wondered that the bone didn't rip right through. He ran a hand through his greasy white hair and left streaks of black where his fingers touched. It appeared as though his brief stay in Azkaban had not agreed with him. "L-Lucius," stammered Fudge, backing up slowly. His heel landed on the handcuffs and they made a soft clinking noise. "Wh-what a p-pleasant surprise," he managed. "Pleasant for me," Lucius answered smoothly, all his attention focused on the Minister. He shook his head sadly, but kept his wand trained on Fudge. "After all I've done for you Fudge, I'd expected better treatment. You'd think that with the money I'd let you borrow you'd be able to buy some better accommodations for your honored guests. Expelliarmus." Fudge's wand flew out of his hand and through the air to Malfoy. "P-please Luc- Mr. Malfoy, I swear to you that I'll continue to turn a blind eye to -" "Conjunctivitis!" Malfoy smirked. "Make that two blind eyes," he said with a snort. Harry was disappointed that Azkaban hadn't seemed to improve Malfoy's sense of humor. "You never could see two feet in front of your face, could you?" Fudge was now stumbling blindly sown a small hill towards a group of Dementors feasting on the soul of an unfortunate Auror. One of them turned it's head, the large black opening of the hood revealing nothing of what lay underneath. It broke off from the group it was in and glided towards the Minister. Tonks saw what was happening, and started to run towards the Minister to steer him back to safety. Lucius, seeing this, took his attention off of Fudge and eyed his new moving target. "Avada Kedavra!" he shouted, and a bolt of green light shot towards the running Tonks. "TONKS!" Harry tried to warn her but no sound would come. Fearing that his friend's next step would be her last, he looked away expecting to hear a scream when she was hit. Instead his ears were greeted by a loud clank and then the sound of a body hitting the ground. His head snapped back to where Tonks had been, only to find her lying on her back next to the handcuffs. "Expelliarmus!" Kingsley had left the Dementors he had been rounding up apparently alerted by Lucius's attempted Killing Curse, and he was now dueling with him fiercely. Harry didn't wait to see whether Malfoy was able to block the spell, he ran to Tonks's side and knelt down over her. She was rubbing her head with her non-wand hand. "That was quite a spill, eh, Harry?" she asked him. Harry opened and closed his mouth trying to get her to understand that he couldn't talk. She seemed to get the point. "Finite Incantatum," she said, and with a flick of her wand Harry was finally able to talk again. "Thanks," he said breathlessly. He grabbed the pair of handcuffs from beside her and gripped them tightly. "I'll be right back, I just need to get my wand." Tonks looked like she was going to protest, but Harry didn't give her the chance to speak her mind. "Cheering Charm." Yet another hook implanted behind his navel, and the island of Azkaban disappeared beneath his feet.
This time Harry was braced for impact, and he didn't stumble as he came to a stop on the marble floor of Fudge's office. To his great surprise he wasn't alone.
"Hello, Harry." Sitting behind the desk in the Minister's chair was none other than Albus Dumbledore. He was holding Harry's wand in one hand and a short piece of parchment in the other. "I believe you were looking for this?" he asked holding up Harry's wand. Harry was too dumbfounded for words; he just nodded weakly. "Come have a seat." Dumbledore used Harry's wand to summon a plush purple chair in front of where Harry was standing. A glint in Dumbledore's eyes told him that he was not being asked to sit down, he was being told.
"But, Sir, people are dying out there," he went on futilely. He already knew he wasn't going to get his wand unless he sat down and handed over the Portkey. He tossed the handcuffs onto the desk but refused to sit down. He was tired of Dumbledore bossing him around. "Are you just going to let them die Professor? Do their lives mean nothing to you?" Professor Dumbledore continued to motion towards the seat.
"There are battles that cannot be won, Harry," he said softly. "The trick is knowing which ones to fight."
"But Tonks and Fudge-" Harry tried desperately.
"Cornelius Fudge is dead."
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