Questions, Answers, And More Questions
Sunday, January 3rd, 1993 – Evening
As the large group of adults and students stepped onto the Second Floor, and headed in the direction of the Headmistress' office, Harry was deep in thought.
This was not how he had expected the rest of the evening to conclude. He thought, by now, that he and Hermione would be in their Quarters with Padma Patil, and perhaps her sister, Parvati. Parvati wasn't permitted to stay in the Lord's Quarters, but he would give her permission to visit since her sister would be residing there. Parvati obviously wanted to talk to him about one or more things. He also realized that he and Hermione would have to explain to the Patils about why they were living in the Lord's Quarters together, as well as the whole business of them being a Metamorphmagus and Neko.
Perhaps it was better that Padma wouldn't move into the Lord's Quarters until the following day. The conversation Parvati wanted would involve Padma, and was obviously planned to be in private, away from eavesdropping ears. Such a conversation couldn't be done in the corridors of Hogwarts. If they had the conversation that evening in the Lord's Quarters, then Parvati would be truant for curfew.
Harry's plans for the conclusion of the evening hit a big detour when Aurors Moody and Shacklebolt called him and Hermione out in the Entrance Hall. The Aurors had already collected Percy, Ron and Ginny Weasley. Both Percy and Ginny had looked quite angry, and Ginny had looked quite upset and scared. The Aurors had also collected Fred and George, and then Parvati and Padma had joined Harry and Hermione on their own. Auror Moody was in the process of telling the Patil twins they needed to leave, when Headmistress McGonagall, Professor Lupin, and Madam Bones had arrived.
Headmistress McGonagall's attitude had shocked Harry, along with the other students. Harry had rarely ever seen her that snappish. He realized she was only snappish when she was really concerned for the students. So he had concluded that there was something very wrong going on. At first he thought this had something to do Headmistress McGonagall's announcement of him being a Metamorphmagus, and Hermione being a Neko. But why would that personally concern the Weasleys to the point where all five of them were being taken by Auror escort to the Headmistress' office? Ron hadn't been close enough to Harry and Hermione to do or say anything to them during the Feast, so it couldn't be about that.
And then there was the fact that Auror Moody had said something about Aurors going to a "suspect's" dormitory to check their belongings. So one of the students currently being escorted by the Aurors was a suspect. Percy had made a point of saying that Moody had been staring at Ginny with that creepy eye of his... so did that mean Ginny was the "suspect"? If so, then what did she do?! If Ginny was in trouble, he could understand why her family was involved in the meeting... but how did it involve him and Hermione?!
Harry was absolutely confused.
What happened next only confused poor Harry more. The procession of adults and students had stopped mid-trip, as they came across two Aurors standing outside a room. After a hushed discussion between Madam Bones and Auror Moody, the pair of officials headed into the guarded room. Harry thought for a second that this was their destination instead of the Headmistress' office. However, about a minute later – as everyone outside waited, some more impatient than others – Madam Bones and Auror Moody returned. Harry noticed Moody had something bulky under his robes, but he could only ponder about it for a moment before Moody looked at him with that bizarre eye of his, causing Harry to look away. Moody merely grunted and ordered the procession to move forward.
Eight minutes later, they had arrived at the statue of the large cat that guarded McGonagall's office. Auror Shacklebolt was ordered by Madam Bones to remain near the statue and wait. For what, she didn't say, but Shacklebolt seemed to understand.
Then the rest of the group ascended the stairs, and stepped into Headmistress McGonagall's office. Instead of walking over to her desk, McGonagall walked up another set of stairs behind her desk and disappeared into an adjoining room. Meanwhile, Professor Lupin and Madam Bones conjured several chairs near the Headmistress' desk and asked the students to sit down. Auror Moody stood off to the side of McGonagall's desk, still clutching onto the bulge in his robe as he had been for the past few minutes. His eye was still trained on Ginny Weasley as she sat down in the chairs with her brothers, Harry and Hermione.
Harry and Hermione at one end of the row of chairs, then Fred and George sat beside them, and then Ginny, Percy and Ron. Beside Ron, there were still two empty chairs, but neither Madam Bones or Professor Lupin sat in them.
After another excruciatingly silent minute, Headmistress McGonagall returned. She was not alone. Arthur and Molly Weasley were following her.
"Sit down beside Ronald, please," McGonagall addressed Arthur and Molly, as she walked over to her own chair.
Harry and Hermione kept their eyes on the Headmistress, ignoring Molly Weasley even though they could feel her eyes on them. Both had heard her made a small noise of shock when she had obviously noticed Hermione's cat-ears and tail, and both had simply ignored her. Molly sat down next to Ron, and her husband sat at the end of the row.
"What is going to be discussed this evening is going to be very difficult to process," McGonagall said, "There are a lot of questions that need answered involving two different but important issues. The first revolves around Mr. Ronald Weasley."
"What did I do?" Ron grumbled.
"Is this about Harry and Hermione, Minerva?" Arthur asked, gazing down in the direction of said students.
"Nay," McGonagall said, looking at Harry and Hermione, "Mr. Potter and Miss Granger. You are not here because you are in trouble. I suppose the appropriate term for your part of this meeting is 'witnesses', though I do have some important things to discuss with you before the end of the meeting, but that will be in private."
Beside him, Hermione's behavior became less tense than it had been since they had been collected by Aurors. Harry felt a sense of relief – "witness" was obviously much better than "suspect". Even though it still confused him.
"Auror Moody, if you will bring out the subject of our first discussion?" McGonagall asked.
All eyes were trained on Moody as he pulled from his cloak what he had been guarding. He then set the large object on the desk, and backed away.
"Hey!" Ron screamed, "That's my rat, Scabbers! What do you have him for? You stole him!"
"Ronald!" Arthur said, in a scolding tone Harry had expected from the man's wife, but never from the man. Himself.
"Would you please answer my son's question, Minerva?" Molly asked, "He has a point. What is my son's pet doing here?"
"How long has this rat been in your possession, Madam Weasley?" Madam Bones asked.
"I believe I should answer that, Madam Bones," Percy spoke up. "I found him in the late winter of 1981. I found him at the top of our driveway, shivering from the cold. I had been wanting a pet for some time, and I picked him up and brought him home. Mum was originally against me owning him, but Dad let me."
"Late winter of 1981," Amelia said, "Are you telling me this rat has been in your family's possession for eleven years?"
"Yes, Madam," Percy said, "In the summer of '91, I was given my owl from my parents as a reward for becoming Prefect. I gave Scabbers to Ron."
"And this is the same rat which has been in your possession all this time?" Moody asked, "It isn't possible that your parents switched out rats to fool you, because your original rat died? Some parents do that with hamsters and goldfish."
"We've never had to do that, Auror Moody," Arthur said.
Moody grunted. "And you never thought that peculiar, Arthur? Good Merlin, man! Has it ever shown any aptitude for magic?"
"No," Arthur said, "It is just a common garden rat."
"A common garden rat," Moody said, "Miss Granger, you're a smart lassie. How long is the common life expectancy of a common garden rats? Do you know?"
Hermione gasped. "Definitely not for eleven years! How did I not see that?!"
"Yes," Moody said, "How, indeed? Let me give you a lesson about rats. Common Garden Rats are lucky to live past two years in the wild. Domesticated as a pet – at most, they can live up to five years. Eleven years. Quite the long life for a common garden rat, ain't it?"
"Percy and I treated him good," Ron said, "That's all. So he's lived eleven years? Why is that so important?"
"He's set a world record, Scabbers has!" Fred said.
"Longest living rat in history!" George said, "We should write to Ginny Book of World Records."
"Guinness Book," Hermione corrected.
"Scabbers would be disqualified," Remus said, "Not to mention you'd break the Statute of Secrecy. Scabbers is not a magical rat. Technically, he's not even a rat."
"Of course, he's a rat!" Ron exclaimed.
Auror Moody snorted. Loudly. He picked up the cage and walked over to the large empty floor behind them.
"Where are you going with my rat?!" Ron complained.
"If he's really a rat, you can have him back, laddie," Moody grunted.
"Have any of you had a chance to look at the Daily Prophet today?" Amelia said. "There's the bigger articles such as the announcement that Minerva became Headmistress. There's the articles about the trials that went on yesterday. And then there was an article about a new fugitive. I should know. I requested the article myself. The fugitive is one Peter Pettigrew, revealed by Sirius Black – recently found innocent - to be alive and on the run. Believed to be guilty of betraying James and Lily Potter to their deaths..."
Harry ignored the looks that were headed his way.
"Believed to have killed twelve Muggles in early November of 1981," Amelia said, "And believed to be a Death Eater. There was one other tidbit in there. I doubt you read the article, because if you did, I would assume you would have become instantly suspicious of your son's pet rat. It clearly sat Peter Pettigrew is an Animagus - a common garden rat."
"Good Merlin!" Arthur gasped, "You're not implying –?"
"That you've been harboring a criminal and Death Eater in your residence for the past eleven years?" Amelia finished Arthur's question. "Auror Moody?"
By that time, the rat was now laying Stunned in the middle of the floor. Auror Moody flicked his wand in an odd pattern. Harry stared with wide eyes as the rat slowly began to transform and grow, until it finally became a small, man with balding, mousy, brown hair.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Amelia said, "I present to you Scabbers... also known as Peter Pettigrew."
"You're lying!" Ron exclaimed, "You replaced my rat with that man! Where's my pet?! You stole him and switched him out!"
"Ronald, be silent!" Arthur scolded.
Ron grumbled and slunk down in his chair.
"Madam Bones," Arthur said, "Surely you can't believe we've knowingly had a fugitive in our house all these years."
"I don't know what to believe, Arthur," Amelia said. "According to your son, it has been in your family's possession eleven years. Twice the life-expectancy of a common garden rat. I am having a hard time trying to figure out how an experienced wizard and witch, who have at least your average wizard's knowledge of Animagi and animals in general, could go eleven years without being suspicious of their son's pet rat. If an animal is doing things beyond their usual behavior, it is quite possible there is something very odd going on with them! Maybe you wouldn't suspect them of being an Animagus, but if I was in your position, I'd at least have consulted someone with a little more knowledge about such things than yourself!"
Amelia threw up her hands. "I mean, good Merlin, Arthur, Molly! This is a criminal with a known history of killing twelve Muggles, and suspected of being a Death Eater! You're lucky he didn't transform into his human self one night while you were asleep and slaughter you all!"
"That's a bit harsh, Amelia," McGonagall said.
"Maybe, but she's right!" Moody grunted, "That rat wouldn't have lasted one day in my house without being given a test of an assortment of spells!"
"We're not all as paranoid as you, Moody," Remus said, with a smile.
"Paranoid he may be, but he's right," Amelia said. "Back in the very late months of 1981, there were still a threat of Death Eaters running amok, and everyone was suspicious and frightened that they could be attacked even after... You-Know-Who was gone."
"I don't know what to say, Madam Bones," Arthur said, his voice shaky, "You're obviously right, here. We made some very grave mistakes concerning Scabbers. However, I must ask. We didn't know Scabbers was an Animagus. Are we being charged with anything here?"
Amelia sighed. "No. You aren't. I suppose the whole point of this was to just show you exactly what your son's rat really was."
"How did you discover this?" Arthur asked.
"Strangely enough, it was an ironic coincidence," Amelia said, "We didn't expect we'd find anything like what we discovered here. A group of Aurors and Unspeakables were ordered to remain at Hogsmeade Station while the rest of the students returning from Christmas Break were heading up here to Hogwarts. Those Aurors and Unspeakables were assigned with searching the belongings of each and every student who arrived."
"That is quite the breach of privacy, Madam Bones!" Molly exclaimed.
"We were looking for any evidence that might point us to the culprit behind the Chamber of Secrets fiasco," Amelia said.
"I thought the culprit was caught!" Percy said, "You said the Basilisk was destroyed!"
"The human culprit, young Mister Weasley," McGonagall said, "Do you honestly believe a Basilisk was responsible for writing that message on the wall on Halloween evening?"
"No, ma'am," Percy said.
"Basilisk?" Molly asked, "Messages on walls? Chamber of Secrets? What is this all about, Minerva?"
"None of your children wrote to you about the Chamber of Secrets?" Amelia asked.
"I most certainly did!" Percy said, "I sent at least one letter about it with Hermes. None of the letters I got back seemed to discuss it though."
"That is because we never received a letter about it, Percy," Arthur said.
"Maybe your letters were intercepted," Moody said, "By somebody who didn't want outside sources to know about the Chamber of Secrets."
"Dumbledore!" Hermione gasped.
"Albus Dumbledore would never do that," Molly said.
"Oh, yes he would," Amelia countered. "This fiasco has gone on since Halloween, and I didn't hear about it from Dumbledore."
"Would you please explain to us about this... fiasco?" Arthur asked.
So for the next few minutes, Amelia and Minerva both told Arthur and Molly about the Chamber of Secrets. Suffice to say, the Weasley parents were quite shocked by the end of it.
"Do you know what Dumbledore's decision was about the Petrified students?" Minerva asked. "He told Pomona Sprout to tend to her crop of Mandrake. Professor Sprout said she would, but that the crop wouldn't be ready for a brew of Mandrake Draught until the middle of this year. Probably around June. The students would have been Petrified until June, probably, if Dumbledore continued to have his way. How long did it take for the students to be cured after I sought Madam Bones' help? One day.
"Thanks to Albus Dumbledore, I have to now deal with the several weeks of lessons, homework and exams those two students missed, when they could have been cured the very same day they had been Petrified! Do not defend Albus Dumbledore in front of me, Molly Weasley! I will not listen to a word of it!"
Harry and Hermione were doing their best not to snicker out loud. However, there were those in the room who were snickering out loud. Several portraits of Headmasters and Headmistresses were snickering and chuckling.
"Will all of you please be quiet?" McGonagall asked the portraits.
"Headmistress?" one portrait of a Headmistress said, "I have someone to comment on aside from the jeering of Albus Dumbledore. That tall, handsome dark-skinned chap in Auror garb is making his way here. He has something with him."
"It would appear an Auror found something they were searching for," Amelia said, "Auror Moody, I believe the discussion concerning Pettigrew is complete. Return him to his Animagus form and to his cage. We will ready him for transport to the Ministry when we are finished here."
Moody grunted and pointed his wand at Pettigrew, who instantly turned back into a rat. As Moody returned the rat to its cage, Auror Shacklebolt stepped into the room. He was holding what appeared to be a metal box.
"Madam Bones," Auror Shacklebolt said, "I have just received this box from an Auror who found it in the suspect's belongings. The object is inside this box, because – as the Auror said – it was radiating Dark magic. The Auror who originally picked it up started to go under a trance before he was incapacitated."
"That explains the box then," Unspeakable Croaker said, speaking for the first time, since entering the room, "It is used to lessen any enchantments on the object. Give it here, Auror Shacklebolt. I have gloves that will make it safe to handle to object."
Croaker took gloves from his robes and put them on. Shacklebolt then handed the box to Croaker, and the Unspeakable opened it. He raised an eyebrow, then picked up the object. It was a small black book."
"Anyone recognize this book?" Amelia asked.
"Hey, Ginny," Fred said, "Isn't that your diary?"
"It is!" George said, "I tried to grab it from her once. I wanted to see if she wrote about –"
"I'm sorry!" Ginny wailed loudly, "Tom made me do it!"
"Tom?" McGonagall asked. "Who is Tom, Miss Weasley?"
"He said that was his name," Ginny said, "When I started writing in the diary, I wrote my name, and the ink, it – it vanished! And then the words 'Hi, Ginny. I'm Tom' appeared."
Croaker sighed. "I believe I have found who Tom is. Here it is right here on the book. 'Tom... Marvolo... Riddle.'"
McGonagall gasped, and Amelia cursed out loud.
"Who is Tom Marvolo Riddle?" Percy asked.
"I believe you know him better by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, young Mr. Weasley," Amelia replied.
"Voldemort," Harry whispered, as he squeezed Hermione's hand tightly.
"It will have to take some investigation," Croaker said, "But I would say this is likely a diary belonging to Voldemort when he was a teenager, a student here at Hogwarts. Miss Weasley, you said you wrote in this book. How many times?"
"Every day," Ginny said, "Every day since the end of August. I stopped during Christmas Break."
"Mmhmm," Croaker said, "Auror Shacklebolt, you said that an Auror was reported to have been in a trance when he picked up the book?"
"Yes, sir," Shacklebolt said.
"Mmhmm," Croaker said. "Miss Weasley, ever since you came in contact with this book, have you ever had moments where you blacked out? Memory lapses? Woke up and didn't know what you did the past minutes or hours?"
"S-several times," Ginny stammering through whimpers.
"It is a good thing that Auror was stunned," Croaker said, "Or he would have been possessed."
"Possessed?" Amelia asked.
"Aye," Croaker said, "This book is radiating Dark Magic. Powerful Dark Magic. If I wasn't wearing these gloves I would be possessed. However... I don't think Miss Weasley would have been possessed immediately after touching it. When was the last time you wrote in this book, Miss Weasley?"
"Before Christmas," Ginny said.
"Mmhmm," Croaker said, nodding. "The Dark magic inside this book... I can't reveal it. I have theories, but I could not voice them here. Confidential, Department of Mysteries information, you see. However, I can tell you this. You could say this book had a mind of its own."
He turned to the Sorting Hat, then looked back at the book.
"Lore tells us the Founders of Hogwarts put some of their magic in the Sorting Hat," he continued, "Which is why it can Sort students in similar manner to the way that the Founders would have before the Sorting Hat was used. They placed their essence, in essence, in the Hat. Tom Marvolo Riddle also placed some of his essence in this very book."
"So the diary mimed the original owner talking to Ginny?" McGonagall asked.
"It didn't mime anything, Minerva," Croaker said, "I'm afraid it is probably more likely that Ginny was writing to the actual teenage version of Tom Riddle – also known as Voldemort. Miss Weasley speaks of experiencing blackouts. I'm afraid Miss Weasley was actually possessed by Tom Riddle."
"My poor baby!" Molly cried; she jumped up and forced Ron to sit in her own chair, then she moved the empty chair closer to Ginny and sat down next to her then comforted her.
"Is my daughter possessed now?" Arthur asked, watching Ginny and Molly cautiously.
"Nay," Croaker said, "If she was, then Riddle would have made her do something this evening. She wouldn't be here willingly with Aurors, Professors and other officials. She would have tried to fight shortly after it had been announced during this evening's Feast that the Chamber of Secrets investigation was over.
"No... given the fact that the incidents involving the Chamber of Secrets were spaced out, I believe Riddle could only possess her from time to time. Then she began ignoring the diary, and Riddle's essence in the book began to grow angry, wanting to possess her as soon as she touched the book again. Had she done so, I think she would have been completely possessed instead of what we call casually, which she experienced. It wasn't enough to completely possess an Auror, though the Auror who was victimized was placed in a trance. But a little girl like Miss Weasley... she would have been completely possessed.
"So it was a possessed Ginny Weasley who did all those things?" McGonagall asked.
"Yes," Croaker said. "She isn't a Parselmouth, yet she would have had to use the ability to enter the Chamber of Secrets and command the Basilisk. Tom Marvolo Riddle, however, is a Parselmouth. You notice his middle name, 'Marvolo'? Named for Marvolo Gaunt, his maternal Grandfather. The Gaunts descended from Salazar Slytherin himself."
"Enemies of the Heir, beware!" Hermione exclaimed, "Tom Riddle is the Heir of Slytherin."
"We're not dealing with a copycat," Amelia said, "We're dealing with the same culprit as last time, only he possessed another student."
"Indeed," Croaker said.
"Unspeakable Croaker," Amelia said, "Given the evidence, can you honestly say whether or not Ginny Weasley is responsible for the attacks behind the Chamber of Secrets?"
"Honestly?" Croaker asked, "No, she is not the culprit."
All of the Weasleys gave a deep sigh of relief.
"Technically, she's a victim, one of three students who were victims," Croaker said. "She was the very first, from the moment she took ownership of this book."
"When did you receive the book, Ginny?" Amelia asked.
"I found it in my cauldron with the rest of the books when I came home from shopping at Diagon Alley!" Ginny said, "That day we met Professor Lockhart. It was lodged inside another book."
Harry's eyes widened as realizations swept through his brain. "Oh, bloody hell!"
"What is it, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Lucius Malfoy gave her that book!" Harry said.
"Quite the accusation there, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said.
"Indeed," Amelia said, "Please clarify?"
"We were in Flourish and Blott's that day," Harry said, "Draco Malfoy confronted us. Ginny was a part of it. It got heated. Then Mr. Weasley intervened. Then Lucius Malfoy came in. Heated words were exchanged. At one point, Lucius Malfoy took a book from Ginny's cauldron, commented on how it was a second-hand book. Mr. Weasley got in a scuffle with him. Malfoy could have used misdirection when throwing around insults, or during the scuffle to plant the book inside the other one. Then he gave it back to Ginny."
"It is a good tale, Potter," Moody said, "But Lucius Malfoy would convince a lot of people that it is hearsay. Need more proof than that."
"I have a suggestion," McGonagall said. "It wouldn't hold up in court, but it would provide enough proof for arrest. There is a Pensieve in this office."
"Dumbledore's Pensieve?" Moody asked, "You didn't give it back to him."
"It isn't Dumbledore's Pensieve, Alastor," McGonagall said. "It was donated to Hogwarts, and therefore belongs to Hogwarts."
"Er... what's a Pensieve?" Harry asked.
Hermione was the first to answer.
"But they're extraordinarily rare!" Hermione exclaimed, after finishing the explanation.
"I will allow use of the Pensieve," Amelia said.
Headmistress McGonagall stood and walked over to a bookshelf. A minute later, she returned with an ornate bowl and placed it on the table. She then explained to Harry how to remove a memory. He allowed Remus to assist him. When the silvery string of memory dropped into the Pensieve, the pool of liquid inside reverberated around the bowl.
"Unspeakable Croaker, Auror Moody and I will travel into the Pensieve," Amelia said, "It should only take a few minutes."
"You don't need Harry to join you?" McGonagall asked.
"We should be able to identify the discussed moments without his assistance," Amelia said, "Auror Shacklebolt, please watch over that diary and Pettigrew's cage."
Auror Shacklebolt nodded. Croaker placed the diary back in the metal box, then handed the box to Shacklebolt. Harry watched with amazement as Madam Bones, Moody and Croaker vanished as soon as they touched the Pensieve.
"That was wicked!" Fred and George exclaimed.
"Am I going to be expelled, Headmistress McGonagall?" Ginny asked.
"I have been contemplating what to do in my head ever since the discussion began, Miss Weasley," McGonagall said. "I am leaning toward one appropriate solution. Out-of-school suspension."
"Headmistress, that is quite harsh!" Percy exclaimed. "She was possessed by that diary, wasn't she? She didn't do this on her own!"
"If you will let me finish, young Mr. Weasley," McGonagall said. "Out-of-school suspension would be the official punishment. In truth, the suspension would give her enough time to meet with an appropriate Mind Healer."
"A Mind Healer?!" Molly cried, "No, I refuse! She doesn't need a Mind Healer! She's not insane! What she needs is to spend some time with me and her father, with some good old home comfort and love! Besides, Mind Healers are expensive and we can't afford such things."
"It would be paid directly by Hogwarts and possibly the Ministry of Magic, Madam Weasley," McGonagall said. "In truth, I feel rather responsible myself for not noticing anything strange about your daughter's behavior. Myself, or my fellow staff should have been able to recognize that something was wrong."
"I still stand by what I say," Molly said, "My daughter does not need a Mind Healer!"
"I am making it mandatory, Madam Weasley," McGonagall said, adopting a stern expression Harry recognized easily, "If she does not meet with a Mind Healer – if that Mind Healer does not deem her fit to resume her education – then I will have no choice but to expel her."
"What?!" Molly exclaimed.
"I cannot risk the possibility of any remaining exposure of possession, Madam Weasley," McGonagall said, "It would mean she would be a danger to my students."
"She's right, Molly," Arthur said. "Thank you, Minerva. I will make sure she is seen by a Mind Healer – as long as it takes – and I gratefully accept aide when it comes to paying for the meetings."
Molly huffed, but said nothing. Before anyone could respond, Madam Bones, Auror Moody and Unspeakable Croaker appeared again.
"Mr. Potter, your story proves true," Amelia said, "Lucius Malfoy is indeed responsible for placing the diary in Ginny Weasley's possession."
McGonagall then explained her decision regarding Ginny seeing a Mind Healer.
Amelia nodded in agreement. "I believe that is a good idea. I will see that the Ministry does its part to aide in providing treatment. An Auror will be on hand to escort Miss Weasley to and from every appointment. If such terms are followed, and Miss Weasley passes the approval of a Mind Healer, I will drop any pending charges of her association with the Chamber of Secrets. Thank you for your cooperation. Auror Moody, Auror Shacklebolt, will you please escort all the Weasleys out of the office. Have an Auror bring the boys back to their Common Room, and another Auror escort Arthur, Molly and their daughter out. Then you may take Mr. Pettigrew to the Ministry. Unspeakable Croaker is taking custody of the diary."
"Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, please stay here for a moment," McGonagall said.
Harry and Hermione remained in their chairs. Auror Shacklebolt handed the metal box back to Unspeakable Croaker, as Moody retrieved the rat cage. Then the Aurors escorted the Weasleys out of the office.
"There are a couple of things we would like to discuss with you, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger," McGonagall said. "The first is mainly for you, Mr. Potter. Do you know who Peter Pettigrew is?"
"Remus – Professor Lupin - and Sirius explained it," Harry said, nodding, glancing at Remus for a moment, "Pettigrew was responsible for betraying my parents. He framed Sirius – he's partially responsible for Sirius being in Azkaban."
"Yes," McGonagall said. "It appears he has been hiding at the Weasley residence all these years. Arthur and Molly Weasley were, indeed, rather foolish for not noticing the fact that their son's pet rat was living much longer than he should be. But I suppose they were simply deceived."
"I will investigate every outlet concerning Pettigrew," Amelia said, "It might turn out that he has something to do with being able to hide so long without being detected. However, there is legally nothing I can charge them with. They weren't knowingly harboring a fugitive. Even then, Pettigrew's only technically been a fugitive for a day. That is how long the investigation's been open. There isn't an actual crime for being a Death Eater. It usually leads to being responsible for other crimes, but it isn't a criminal act in itself. So there is no such thing as harboring a Death Eater. No, the Weasleys are pretty much innocent when it comes to Peter Pettigrew. Foolish, definitely. But innocent."
"I shudder to think what Pettigrew could have done," McGonagall said, "Harsh as your words were, Amelia, I must agree with what you said. Pettigrew could have attacked the Weasleys at anytime."
"He was sleeping in Ron's bed, in Harry's dormitory!" Hermione said, "If he betrayed Harry's parents, he could have hurt Harry. Or worse!"
"But he didn't," Remus said, "Peter Pettigrew, among other things, is a coward. I have no idea why he was chosen as a Gryffindor -"
He glanced at the Sorting Hat, but it said nothing.
" – but Pettigrew was a definite Slytherin," he continued. "If he was hiding in his rat form all these years, then he was doing so for his own safety. Everyone thought he was dead. He probably realized he would be caught if he revealed himself in his human form. Between that, and the fact that he's a coward, it isn't a surprise he's done nothing drastic since he went in hiding. I'm just glad he's finally going to get justice."
"Yeah," Harry said, nodding.
"Oh, he'll definitely get his just desserts," Amelia said, "This, I promise."
"Moving on," McGonagall said, "Mr. Potter, I am sure you're probably surprised that I revealed to the student body that you're a Metamorphmagus."
"I figured you were doing it for a reason," Harry said, shrugging.
"A few reasons," McGonagall said. "The first is that I thought it would be better for you to take some of the attention at the same time the students discovered that Miss Granger is a Neko."
Harry nodded, and looked at Hermione. "I suppose it would be better to go through this together."
"Wouldn't do it any other way," Hermione said, grinning.
"Also," McGonagall said, "I figured it was easier to reveal it tonight. Instead of say during a moment of surprise if you were to change your appearance accidentally in front of unsuspecting students."
"Or if you turned into a girl and couldn't change back for a while," Hermione said grinning, then she frowned, "Though I suppose that would take some explanation anyway."
Harry grimaced. "Great."
"My improvements in the rule changes I spoke of tonight," McGonagall said, "should help to keep the insults regarding your Metamorphmagus and Neko lifestyles to a bare minimum. However, I repeat what I said. Should anyone decide to insult you, come see me or another Professor. It will be dealt with."
"Yes, ma'am," Hermione said, and Harry echoed her response.
"Finally," McGonagall said, "Mr. Potter, I must apologize for earlier. I could tell you had plans with the Patils, and I had interrupted them."
"It can be dealt with tomorrow," Harry said, shrugging.
"If you need my assistance with anything, just ask," McGonagall said. "That is what I am here fore. Do you have any questions regarding what happened this evening?"
Harry frowned. He thought to ask about Tom Riddle, but he figured he and Hermione could do their own investigation on that. If they couldn't find much, they could always bring it up later. Harry shook his head. McGonagall looked at Hermione, who shook her head too.
"Very well," McGonagall said, "You're excused. Professor Lupin, if you would please escort these two back to their Quarters?"
Remus nodded once. Harry and Hermione stood, then followed Remus out of the office.
"There was a couple things I didn't say back there in Headmistress McGonagall's office," Hermione said, as she, Harry and Remus headed down the corridor.
"Oh?" Harry said.
"As soon as Auror Moody walked out of that room those Aurors were guarding, my heightened senses went mental. Whatever was in Moody's cloak smelled... off. And then he set the cage on the desk. And..."
"When you looked at the rat," Remus said, "You could sense that it wasn't a rat."
"Yes!" Hermione said, "I didn't want to say anything, because I knew it had to do with my Neko abilities. And... I didn't want to talk about my Neko abilities in front of the Weasleys. So I didn't say anything."
"Our heightened senses are very similar, Miss Granger," Remus said, "We are both able to identify whether an animal is a true animal, or an Animagus. It is a very handy talent. Which is why I had no doubts who that rat was when Headmistress McGonagall and Madam Bones showed it to me before the Feast."
"That must have been really hard," Hermione said, "Reuniting with a man who was a friend you thought dead, and you found out he was a really bad person who was alive all this time."
"It was pretty hard," Remus said, "About as hard as reuniting with a man was your friend, then you thought for a long time that he was a traitor, then finding out he was innocent."
Harry frowned, realizing he meant Sirius.
"There was something else I didn't say back there," Hermione said, "And now I wonder if I should have said something."
"Oh?" Harry asked, "What is it?"
"That diary," Hermione said, "It smelled off too. It smelled really, really bad."
"Yeah," Remus agreed, with a grimace, "I'll never forget that odor."
"And I realized I had smelled that same scent before!" Hermione said, "In the same area near your Family Vault at Gringotts!"
Harry raised his eyebrows. "If it proves to be important, we'll bring it up with Headmistress McGonagall."
"I agree with Harry," Remus said. "It could be nothing. You could have simply been smelling some bad Dark magic, which isn't uncommon amongst those who have heightened senses. Which isn't surprising. Gringotts is littered with it."
Hermione nodded, but from the way she was squeezing Harry's hand, he knew she was still worried.
Sunday, January 3rd, 1993 – Late Evening
As Harry, Hermione and Remus left her office, Minerva relaxed in her chair and turned to Amelia and Unspeakable Croaker. Croaker was gazing at the metal box in his hands with obvious distaste.
"There's something about that diary, Algie," Minerva said, "Something that rubs you the wrong way. Is there anything you could tell me that isn't confidential?"
Croaker stared at her for a moment, then at Amelia, then looked thoughtful.
"You're both talented Occlumens, so I suppose the information wouldn't be taken from you too easily," he said.
"Algernon Croaker! Did you just use Legilimency on us?" Minerva demanded.
"You do know I could arrest you for that," Amelia said.
Croaker snorted. "I'd like to see you try, Bones. In my position, I am legally permitted to use Legilimency on anyone who I deem necessary. For example, I used it on every single one of the Weasleys this evening. Just so I could detect whether or not they could be implicated behind any of the accusations presented tonight. Bones, you better be able to find a very experienced Mind Healer if you want that little girl, Ginevra, to get out of this experience sane enough to have a good future. I haven't encountered a mind that clouded with Darkness since I visited Azkaban last. The essence of Tom Marvolo Riddle in this diary did some clear damage to her. The most polite term I could use is 'mental rape'."
Croaker shuddered, which was quite shocking, since such behavior was rare from Unspeakables.
"The nightmares this thing gave her," Croaker continued. "Horrible. However, I am not surprised."
"You're not?" Amelia asked.
"No," Croaker replied. "I use the term 'essence', but what is controlling this book is far, far worse.
It is defined as the most terrible Dark Magic in existence."
Minerva's eyes widened. Croaker surely wasn't implying...?
"Algie," Amelia said, slowly, "You're not trying to say that the diary is..."
"A Horcrux," Croaker said, staring daggers at the metal box. "Yes. This contains a soul fragment, Amelia. An echo of Tom Riddle wrote to Ginny Weasley through this book. He temporarily possessed her several times. He nearly possessed an Auror this evening, and the only thing the Auror did was touch it for a moment. That means that the Horcrux was very, very close to bringing its soul fragment forward. If Ginny Weasley touched this again, she could have been completely possessed. We would have had an eleven year old little girl walking around with the mind of a teenage Voldemort!"
Minerva placed a hand against her chest.
"There's more bad news," Croaker said, "I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out this isn't the only Horcrux owned by Voldemort."
"So this proves it," Amelia said, "Voldemort is still alive. He survived that night back in Halloween of 1981."
"He may not have a full body right now," Croaker said, "But yes. There is no doubt. Voldemort is still alive and among us. This proves it."
"So what happens now?" Amelia asked.
"Myself and a team of Unspeakables will investigate this before destroying it," Croaker said, "And we will investigate any outlet surrounding the subject of Horcruxes and Voldemort. I am positive there are more out there. How many? I do not know."
"I will be visiting Lucius Malfoy tomorrow," Amelia said, "It is possible he might know."
"Perhaps," Croaker said, "Perhaps not. I doubt Voldemort would have told Malfoy exactly what this was. I imagine Voldemort gave it to Malfoy so he could keep it safe, and hidden."
"And instead of 'hidden', he gave it to Ginny Weasley," Amelia said, "So she could open the Chamber of Secrets."
"I'm not sure that was his intention," Croaker said. "After all, his son, the Heir Apparent of his House, and his only child, attends Hogwarts. The boy could have been an accidental victim of the Basilisk. There is likely other reasons behind it. But don't expect him to know anything about Voldemort's Horcruxes. One making Horcruxes does not tend to talk about them."
Amelia nodded, then sighed deeply. "I think it is time for us to leave. I have a busy day tomorrow, and the night isn't over yet."
"Aye," Croaker said.
"Thank you for being a lovely host, Minerva," Amelia said. "Don't hesitate to call on us if you need any more assistance."
"Of course," Minerva said, "Congratulations on ending two investigations this evening."
"Thank you," Amelia said, "You did your part too."
Minerva nodded and smiled. After farewells, Amelia and Croaker left. Minerva sighed and relaxed back in her chair. She was in the midst of reminiscing about what had happened that evening, when suddenly her reveries were interrupted by a loud crack!
Her house-elf, Sasha, appeared in the middle of the office, and she wasn't alone. She was holding another house-elf against her. The other house-elf was struggling. Minerva couldn't blame it. Sasha had one arm around its neck in a choke-hold. In Sasha's other hand, she was dragging a very large square object covered with a sheet.
"What is the meaning of this, Sasha?!" Minerva exclaimed, "Release that poor elf this instantly!"
Sasha would usually do as her Mistress commanded. This time, however, she was still holding the elf in a choke-hold, but it was clear she was struggling whether or not to do as her Mistress said.
"Can't... comply," Sasha said, "Bad... elf... stole...!"
Sasha snapped her fingers, and the elf in her arm went still. She released the elf, and it collapsed on the floor. Minerva couldn't tell if it was asleep, stunned, unconscious or dead.
"Elf only asleep, Madam McGonagall," Sasha said, "Sasha is very, very sorry. But she had to. Bad elf trying to steal something belonging to Hogwarts student. Bad elf trying to take object back to Dumbledore."
Minerva suddenly realized what Sasha meant.
"This is one of the elves that was helping you pack up Dumbledore's belongings," she said.
"Yes, Madam McGonagall," Sasha said. "Sasha found that this object belongs to a student. However, the student hasn't owned it in a very, very long time. Dumbledore had it in a hidden space here in the office. Sasha found it, and attempted to give it to her Mistress. But this elf stole it. Then Sasha had to steal it back. Back and forth. Back and forth. Sasha blocked the elf from leaving Hogwarts. Elf hid. Sasha found elf. Sasha found the object and elf. Sasha brought object and elf here to you."
Minerva frowned. Sasha was always good with English, including sentence structure. And she rarely ever spoke in third person. This behavior only meant that she was very stressed. Minerva stood, then walked over to Sasha. She knelt down, then hugged the elf.
"Thank you, Sasha," Minerva said, "You did very well. I am sorry for yelling at you. Now... let's see what you found."
Sasha set the object on the ground. Minerva removed the sheet, and she gasped out loud.
"Bad Dumbledore stole!" Sasha exclaimed, "Bad Dumbledore stole Harry Potter's parents from Harry Potter!"
Minerva's eyes widened as she looked at the object before her. It was a portrait of James and Lily Potter.
Dun-Dun-Dun! You're lucky I revealed what the object was to you. The chapter ALMOST ended with Minerva gasping out loud in surprise!
So much was revealed in this chapter. So much that I'm just going to let the chapter speak for itself.
I do need to say one thing though. The Pensieve belongs to Hogwarts. It does not belong to Dumbledore. I know there will be some comments about that. This is correct... at least in MY story.
Next chapter: Reactions to Neko!Hermione and Metamorph!Harry. Classes! Meetings with Padma and Parvati... and maybe others.
Hope you liked this chapter! I'm sure there is some things I possibly missed in all the kerfuffle of discussions. If so, then it will be brought up in later chapters.