Chapter 128 & 129 – Confessions and Illusions
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It took a while, and by then, Professor McGonagall took good care of Mariette, calming her down, waiting until Professor Snape appeared, holding a bottle of Veritaserum, “Three drops should be more than enough.”

Cloud was about to take it when Umbridge snatched it away, “Let me make sure you don’t play any trick.”

“I would be more comfortable with anyone but you. How about you, Minister?”

“Me?” Fudge was started, then he looked at everyone in the room and ordered Snape, “Severus, you do it.”

Snape took the bottle, administering three drops, and then closed it. He waited for moments, nodding, “Ok. Ask her.”

“Mariette, tell them what you told me,” Umbridge said expectedly.

“I-I didn’t tell you anything,” Mariette worriedly said, “Please forgive me, Professor!”

“Did she…blackmail you?”

“She said my mother’s job would be in danger if I didn’t lie.”

“Did she torture you?” Professor McGonagall worriedly asked.

“She…she made me write lines, and they...they….” Mariette burst into tears, hugging Professor McGonagall.

“Yes. Yes. You don’t need to say anymore!”

“You! How dare you lie!!!! She’s lying! Minister, believe me!”

“Are you doubting me? Or the potion I made,” Snape shot a sharp look at her, but she ignored him.

“You, why would you lie!”

Mariette screamed, “No! Please! Please don’t hurt me! I won’t say anything about that! Please!”

“About what?” Professor McGonagall furrowed her brows, “Child, tell me. About what?”

Mariette struggled, even with the potion; for a moment, she seemed to be struggling, which said something about the secret she was holding.

“I’ll protect you,” Cloud lightly said. She spoke, chirped, “She would…she would make me write lines, and tell me things…like how she wanted to pit Headmaster against Minister, and then with my help…she would frame Headmaster, and then become the Headmistress, and use then systematically train all students, and overthrow the Ministry! She even recruited many students from Slytherin.”

“Umbridge!” Cornelius took a step back, looking at her, only to see the panicked look on her face, and he was sure she was behind it.

“I can’t believe I was so blind! The snake was always on my side!”

“No! I didn’t! I didn’t do it!” Umbridge screamed, raising her wand towards Mariette, but it got pulled out of her hand, falling into Cloud’s hand.

“If you want to silence her, then I won’t let you,” Cloud didn’t need to take the wand; Kingsley and the other Auror with him, and Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore all took out their wands.

“You should choose a better company, Cornelius,” Dumbledore suggested.

Cornelius’s face turned purple, and he ordered his two Auror, “Keep an eye on her and bring her. Don’t let her run away! Take her to Azkaban and let the Dementors interrogate her!”

“Nooo!! Cornelius! Don’t be fooled!! Don’t be fooled!” Umbridge got dragged out, and Cornelius didn’t stay much longer. The only sound that remained in the room was of Mariette crying.

Harry was still stunned, and even Snape felt what happened was a bit unreal, let alone Professor McGonagall. They were all looking toward Mariette when Dumbledore said, “Mr. Strife. If you would kindly remove it not?”

“Yeah,” With his voice, a veil was removed from the room, and Mariette, crying in Professor McGonagall’s arms, disappeared, leaving an echo of her sobbing.

McGonagall took a step back in shock, looking around the room, finding Mariette sitting on the chair, unconscious, with the world Sneak on her face.

“That’s…? Then who was I holding?”

“An illusion.”

“Since when?! I was there the whole time,” Harry raised his voice, flabbergasted.

“I assume when Mr. Strife stepped in front of her and praised the Magician that put the Jinx. For a moment, it weakened our concentration when our mind wondered whom he was talking about,” Dumbledore smiled, sitting down on his chair.

“Yeah,” Cloud gave a smug smile, which looked gorgeous if anything, and he raised his eyes, “Right on the mark.”

He raised his hand, and three drops of Veritaserum flew above the potion bottle, “Before you say that I wasted your precious potions.”

Snape nodded, taking in the drops, “Good.”

“Not good; this won’t last,” Professor McGonagall shook her head, “They will take her and interrogate her, maybe even use Veritaserum on her. What then?”

“Nothing. They won’t get the chance,” Cloud shrugged, “Right now, Death Eaters are on their way to save their member, which was embedded in the Ministry. They will save her, and so Minister will not get the chance to interrogate her.”

Harry breathed out in relief, but McGonagall frowned for a moment, “Headmaster, Isn’t that going too far?”

“If you are worried about those things, then you shouldn’t have woken me up,” Cloud walked towards the door, “Don’t worry. She won’t die… …might not remember much about herself or the Magical side of things.”

He glanced over to Harry, “Be more careful next time.”

Harry gulped, nodding, thankful from the bottom of his heart as he watched Cloud leave.

Even then, they felt surreal, mainly Professor McGonagall, “I swear…I was holding someone in my arm. Dumbledore…I was holding that girl in my arms. She was crying, her tears…her….”

McGonagall touched her robe, and there were no tears, surprising her, “I…I wasn’t holding her.”

“I couldn’t tell the difference either,” Snape hated to say it, but he did.

“Oh. I understand,” Dumbledore smiled, “Cloud…Mr. Strife. He was born with numerous talents, magical talents. What you saw was one of them. Though I am surprised, he managed to fool someone like Kingsley. He has grown much since last I saw him use it.”

Dumbledore thought deeply, shaking his head, “Right, Harry. You should go and tell your friends the good news.”

“Yes…sir. Sorry for all the trouble, sir. We were….”

“Oh, don’t worry, Harry. I think it’s a brilliant idea, and I hope you continue. I’ll get you, children, a better teacher.”

“Professor Lupin! He’s cured, so he should be able, right?”

Snape shot a look at Harry, “Go to your room, Potter! Or you think you have a right to tell Headmaster whom to hire and whom not to?!” Snape shouted, “And after you caused all the trouble.”

“Go on, Harry. I’ll think of your suggestion,” Dumbledore blinked, nodding at him.

Harry left the room, hearing them continue talking, and he went down the stairs, letting out a breath of relief, “I…I can’t believe it.”

He ran to his house, telling the members of DA, who were waiting about what happened, and they were all as gobsmacked as him but more cheerful that Umbridge was gone.

“Where’s Hermione?”

“Dunno, mate. She ran away, but Tifa and Aerith went to the other houses to calm the DA members, so no one else opens their mouth,” Ron answered.

“Hm?” Harry wanted to praise her, but he didn’t know where she went, and the person who came upon her wasn’t any less surprised if others had known she was there.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“You look tired,” Hermione leaned against the wall, her hands tucked behind her back.

“I am not,” Cloud sat down, stroking Yelena’s head as he watched her sleep.

“Really? You look haggard.”

“What do you want?”

“To hear you out,” Hermione came over to stand in front of him, waiting, “Tell me?”

Cloud sighed, “You know…I put them all under the illusion, and they saw what I wanted them to see…heard what I wanted them to, and felt what I wanted them to. I ensured they believed what I wanted, even if they might not have believed it otherwise.”

“Oh,” Hermione nodded, having heard from Echo, seeing it, still since she was a guest member.

“It was….”

“Tough?”

“Easy.”

“Easy?”

“Almost effortless,” Cloud closed his eyes, “I heard…even in memories of others of Jenova’s danger. But it wasn’t until today…that I realized how fearsome it truly is. It’s not a surprise that it could destroy the whole Civilization of Cetra from within. I could have kept them under the illusion forever, and they wouldn’t have realized, probably like being under the Imperius Curse.”

Cloud stopped, “No…It is just like being under the Imperius Curse. They would do whatever I want… …they’d never realize they are doing it since they’d live in an illusion…an illusion where they think everything is going their way. Never to come out of it….”

Hermione sat down beside him, “I am sorry….”

“No need to be. You should go back.”

“Will you?”

“Will I…what?”

“Put…them under Illusion?”

“Who? The Minister of Magic?”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

Hermione tilted her head, looking up into his eyes, “Then it doesn’t matter if you have that power…does it, Teacher?”

Cloud blanked out for a moment and nodded, sighing, “I guess that doesn’t matter then. Now, you should go back, Tifa.”

“I am Hermione,” She growled.

“Right, and I am Dumbledore,” Cloud lay down on the bed, putting his arm under his head, and closing his eyes.

Hermione—Tifa raised her eyebrows, “DeSpell.”

She removed the transfiguration that Aerith put on her, puffing out-breath, “How did you know?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“You read my mind?”

“Nothing of that sort.”

Tifa lay down on the bed, on her stomach, whispering, “Then tell me? How did I give away?”

“If I tell you…will you let me sleep?”

“Mm, I’ll consider it,” Tifa bit her lip, thinking, nodding, “So?”

“You…your presence…is soothing.”

“Huh,” Tifa parted her lips, “Then what’s Hermione like?”

“Firey? Distracting.”

“Oh, and Aerith?”

“Confusing.”

Tifa rested her head on his shoulder, “I am not sure…if I should feel flattered about the soothing part or insulted that you managed to describe my presence in your life in one word. Aerith would be happy with that comment, though.”

“I am supposing it was her idea?”

“Yeah….”

“See, confusing,” Cloud muttered, “Why even do it? Were you worried that I read your minds?”

“Don’t be silly, Cloud,” Tifa rolled her eyes, “She thought…umm…uh….”

“As I said…confusing.”

“No, she must have a good reason…she transfigured me and pushed me out, so I didn’t get the chance to ask. But she must have…right?”

“Wrong,” Cloud put his hand under her head, pulling her in a hug, stroking her head, “Sleep.”

Tifa raised her eyes, and a smile appeared on her lips as she hugged him, resting her head on his chest, breathing in, “You ok, Cloud?”

“I think so,” Cloud muttered, closing his eyes, and his thoughts seemed to travel through tunnels, find their way inside someone else’s head and their eyes, watching the barrage of dark spells hitting around the building near the Ministry and the Ministers and others were hiding, taking cover.

Umbridge had already been silenced and pulled away, protected by one of the men in Dark Robes and Mask, and they apparated with Umbridge in tow. While he stayed hidden, watching the Minister, Kingsley, and another Auror from the Ministry come out of hiding, all the while, many other Auror, there for Minister’s safety, came running. He took another picture alongside the one he took before, smiling, “That should be the end of High Inquisitor.”

And it was as Genesis said, it was the end, since the next day, there was an article with a picture of Death Eater saving Umbridge. Furthermore, the article elaborated on how Umbridge tortured students, leveraged them by using their parents and made them lie so they could expel Harry Potter. And now that the Death Eaters saved her, her vendetta made sense. Experts on the matter say that she wanted to bring Harry Potter away from Dumbledore, who protected him from the Dark Forces.

Ministry was panicked since the one they set as a High Inquisitor turned out to be Death Eater, and her corrupted practices were coming out one after the other. Even the students who wanted attention too exaggerated to the magazines, the papers, and the outcry was even louder than before.

By the following day, the mood was celebratory, and the happiest were the ones who thought they’d be expelled, the members of Dumbledore’s Army.

Although it was good news for all the students, an announcement by Dumbledore made them groan, though it started with cheering.

“For now, the position of High Inquisitor is empty, and till it’s filled, I would like to revoke all the Educational Decrees that had been set.”

“Woohoo!!!” Fred and George climbed onto the table, cheering, blasting fireworks, and Dumbledore smiled without stopping them.

“Now, now, you two. Please take your seats. I am still the Headmaster.”

There was laughter as Dumbledore continued, “On that note. Harry Potter, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, your ban from Quidditch shall be lifted from this moment onwards.”

The Gryffindor house eruption in cheers, congratulating them, and if someone was the happiest, then it was Angelina, who was squealing as if she couldn’t believe it.

“Lastly, I would reinstate Professor Sybill as your Divination Teacher and thank Mr. Strife for stepping in at such a dire time to help us.”

“Aw, I want to have more classes with him,” Parvati sulked, “Not that I am not happy with Professor Sybill…but with Sir Cloud…I think I can Divine too. I am right…one out of five times, and that’s something.”

Dean agreed with her, “I did more divinations with him than I did in the last four years.”

“Do you think he’d stay if we ask?”

“He won’t stay,” Hermione looked at her reflection in the soup, “He came…because Umbridge was becoming trouble. Now that she is gone for good…he’d be too.”

“Maybe he’d stay to teach us DADA? Or maybe Professor Lupin would return now that he isn’t a Werewolf anymore?” Harry hopefully said.

“Who knows, what I know is that we wouldn’t have to worry about seeing that vile woman’s face,” Ron tore apart the chicken, chewing on it.

“Yeah,” Hermione muttered, shaking her head, “But we still can’t stop the DA meetings. We are so close to learning Patronus. We should at least do that.”

“Definitely.”

Harry didn’t get to sit long; Fred, George, and Angelina came along, congratulating him, grinning; now that they had Harry back, Ginny, who was playing seeker, would now play chaser or a goalie; their team was already strong.

“It doesn’t matter if we can’t, we can’t be first. We’d be second!”

Hermione glanced towards Ron, who was insecure since he hadn’t been performing well. To begin with, he had this inferiority complex, and with Slytherin singing that song, Weasley is our king, he cannot block a single ring, and so on. It was a catchy song, and she had already worked the wordings, planning to change them to support him, but while he was happy, he was sad since there was a chance his position would be taken away.

Or maybe not, unless Ginny decided to be a keeper, but she wouldn’t do that to Ron. It was probably because she decided it wasn’t worth it; not if Ron would chew her ear the whole life.

Hermione raised her eyes, looking towards the staff table, ‘Everything seems sorted out…but why does it feel like the calm before the storm?’

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