It was still morning when the bulk of the army returned to the Forbidden Forest in Scotland only now the sun was shining bright, a rare thing. It was still quite cold but having a sunny greeting to what had been the most life changing day for the wizarding world was cause for celebration and cleaning of wounds.
The dragons and their handlers had gone straight to Romania so the dragons could be released and fed. The handlers would come to the forest so they could join in the celebrations as well. The Hippogriffs had also opted to go home as they much preferred the peace of the forest rather than a raucous outpouring of human-made cheering and celebrating.
So it was that the rest of the army returned to be greeted by a grand tent set up against the tree line beside the training field. Like most magic, the inside of the tent was large enough to accommodate everyone. Before entering, though, the returning fighters were ordered to remain in their assigned teams or groups until released by Jason and Shacklebolt.
Meanwhile, the leaders gathered around the meeting table within the temporary tower at the center of the field to begin the arduous task of debriefing. Around the room Medi-wizards and healers quickly went around the table checking and treating the injured. The same was happening in the tent where their people waited and rested.
Jason had a small bleeding gash on his forehead caused by a glancing blow from a sword wielded by a vampire, surprisingly. The enemy paid with his life with Jason being a bit annoyed with himself for allowing the creature to sneak up on him in the first place.
Nearby Shacklebolt was having a nasty slice to his right thigh treated by a forest healer, while Madam Bones and Dumbledore watched, neither injured, both frowning in mild concern about Jason.
Blayrock and Blodrig had already taken care of their people, none had been badly injured, so they chose to go to the tower immediately. Now they simply waited until all were treated and the last of the army had returned before exchanging reports.
Magorian did have a few Centaurs seriously injured but not so badly they wouldn't recover within a few weeks. When he was certain all his people were present, he left Ronan in charge before sending himself to the tower. He wasn't overly fond of heights so because of that, some kind soul had insured the tower platform had walls and a roof for this meeting … magic be a wonderful thing, he sighed as took a slack footed stance against a wall, insuring there was space between him and the table so people could walk by. A house elf appeared with a mug of butter beer, Magorian's favorite. Grasping the handle, Magorian smiled his thanks and took a deep gulp. The house elf smiled back then vanished.
The rest of the council began straggling in twos and threes taking seats around the room and accepting hot drinks provided by the house elves.
Fawkes chose to take a resting post on the back of Jason's massive wood chair and began to preen his feathers into place. A floating dish of water appeared near him and he gave a soft trill in appreciation.
Sanguini the vampire arrived and gratefully sank into an empty seat at the table. He heaved a sigh of exhaustion and relief, letting his head drop forward so he could rest his eyes from the bright light of day. It was not in his nature to be about at this hour of day but being an old vampire, he was able to stay awake and be about during daylight for short periods, though he did have to take care not to actually be in direct sunlight, that would be bad. So it was a good thing the house elves thought to put a temp magical building on top of this tower.
Within moments of sitting, Sanguini a mug of something steaming appeared next to his hand. His sense of smell told him what the contents were and he immediately downed them in one go. His face pinked up a bit and he looked a little less fatigued from the quick infusion of blood he had been given. A brief smile of pleasure lit his saturnine features as he noted the mug had refilled itself. This time he sipped it more sedately and relaxed.
Sanguini had taken on the onerous responsibility of dispatching the enemy vampires and he had done so with quick efficiency. He was pleased he had distinguished himself with honor in this fight to free the magical world but, truth be told, now with the battle over, he wanted nothing more than to be home resting in his basement bedroom beneath the home he shared with his wizard friend, Eldred Worple. Though tired, he did have the presence of mind to send an owl to his friend to say he had survived unscathed.
Tongra appeared some twenty minutes after the rest had arrived as he was required to follow the prisoners the house elves were transporting to the Elder's new Wyrdwood Prison deep in a hidden section of the Forbidden Forest. Once there, he ensured the prisoners were placed in the appropriate type of cell for their species, then took down their names, clans, and species type and wrote down how many now filled the prison. He knew Jason would need this information for the debrief.
He sighed as he took a seat in one of the big wood chairs provided for one of his stature. A steaming mug of grog appeared in his hand and he smiled. On two smaller but no less comfortable chairs, Blayrock and Blodrig joined him, each receiving their own hot drink. While they waited, the three quietly traded battle tales and how went the fight in their corners of the battle field.
Forty-five minutes more had passed since the battle had ended, Aestra and Annis finally arrived from the Alps. They had successfully finished up the cleansing of the battle site and the search for any other enemy that included the town nearby. With satisfied sighs, the pair took their seats not far from Jason and were immediately presented with hot cider in big mugs to help warm them up after the severe cold of the mountains they had left. Annis' crows took up roosts in the rafters above as they were needed for messenger duty. But they weren't forgotten. Floating near the ceiling were bowls of water and treats for the hungry birds. Caws of thanks greeted the thoughtfulness as many partook of the provender.
Meanwhile, waiting patiently within the tent on the field, the exuberant army sat or stood, as was their nature, at long trestle tables. House Elves could be seen flitting in and out all over the room delivering hot drinks and light snacks to all.
As the healer finished his work and moved on to someone else, Jason watched and listened to the returning leaders arriving around him. A house elf appeared beside him with a mug of butter beer, his favorite.
"Thank you, Beaker." The house elf smiled then vanished. Jason took a huge draught before sighing gustily then looking around himself to see who was or was not there.
He was pleased and relieved when Severus Snape appeared, then was followed minutes later by Tongra and, finally, Delacour with Annis and her crows in tow. By then Jason had finished his drink and was talking quietly with Dumbledore and Madame Bones who sat beside him, Severus was working on his second mug of butter beer while the new arrivals received their hot libations.
"If you would please all settle down we can get this debrief done so our troops can be served a meal that, I have been informed, is waiting to be served for them," Jason announced.
The room grew quiet except for the soft mutterings and rustling of feathers of the crows overhead.
"Give me the numbers and the status of your people," Shacklebolt took over as Jason settled to listen. "Let's just start from my right and go around."
Since that was the recently arrived Aestra, she nodded and set her mug down. "All went well, better actually, than any of us thought possible."
"Excuse me! Before you continue Aestra, I would like to have you use the new device we invented to make things like this briefing more visual," Blayrock interrupted.
"Oh yes, I remember that thing … what did you call it?" Aestra asked, smiling.
"I believe we settled on calling it a Pensieve Viewer," Blayrock declared then made a gesture and a Pensieve appeared hovering in the air. It was a heavy bowl some fourteen inches across and made of some kind of blue stone. Blayrock gestured at the floating bowl and caused it to move toward Aestra then gently settled it before her.
Nodding, Aestra raised her right hand and pressed her index finger into her temple then muttered something under her breath.
The wizards among them gasped in disbelief to see someone use their finger rather than a wand to coax a memory forward but that is just what she did, twirling the strand of memory she had pulled free then lowered that finger with the glowing light to touch the surface of the Pensieve. When she was done, she gave a nod to Blayrock who again made the bowl lift up then head for the center of the table rather than to him before lowering the bowl to the table.
Once the bowl was settled, Baylor gestured yet again but this time he held a strange, small device in his hand and pointed it at the bowl. Nothing seemed to happen at first then suddenly there was a burst of light from the bowl which dimmed down once the light left the bowl.
The light became images … moving images. It took a great many of the watchers to grasp what they were seeing at first.
"Oh my! That's … that's the battle field. This is incredible!" Madame Bones blurted, the first to react.
"Amazing! You have managed to make a Pensieve do what one of those human television and movie screens can do," Snape said in awe.
Blayrock smiled broadly. "We did indeed. Now watch as the battle unfolded and ended." The images that were frozen and hovering above them began to move forward when the Dwarf leader again did something with the device in his hand.
Instantly the recently fought battle played out for all and no one said a word as they were held captive by this novel way of seeing things as they happened without having to touch the waters of the Pensieve themselves. From the arrival of all the teams to the perfect swooping and snatching of the dragons, the sound of the Thunderbird's thunder scaring the enemy into a rout, the chases, the battles all played out in breathless reality above them. It took most of thirty minutes to see all of it before it ended.
"This is a fantastic accomplishment, Blayrock," Shacklebolt acknowledged with a head nod to the dwarf. "But instead of sitting through the entire "movie" as it were, we need to go section by section so we get a real feel on how the entire event went. I want everyone to study the images closely so that we do not miss anything that occurred. I do know this will be a permanent record but for what is to come when we face the Wizengamot, I want us all to be well versed on exactly what happened at this battle and all the others that we engaged in to finish this war. This will ensure none of wizarding kind can question the validity of what we did, how we did it, and who was involved seeing this war end properly with no loose ends. Agreed?" He asked.
"Oh aye, you be right that all should watch and observe. This is our one and only chance to see our world finally be whole and working together at last," Magorian shouted, pumping his fist in the air. Shouts of agreement came mostly from the forest people.
Dumbledore, Madame Bones, and even the leader of the muggle fighter team felt a shiver of what this would mean to the wizarding world and the muggle one from here on out. It was a momentous moment indeed.
"Brilliant. Since we are all in agreement, that is what we will do, however, we do not want our army to wait through what will certainly be hours of work, to be released to their homes after they are fed and debriefed. So, I want the leaders to go and tell their people this: First, I will congratulate them all on their valor and fighting spirit; second, I want each leader to take their teams aside and tell them to go back to work but say nothing of what happened; third, insure you tell them that their participation will not be hidden for long and that it is the intention of the Elder Council to sit down with the Wizengamot and hammer out a contract that gives the forest people equal rights with wizard kind; and fourth, the wizarding public and all others within the magical world will be informed of the war, its ending, and the great changes it has wrought. Questions?"
It was silent for some minutes then heads began to nod in agreement.
"Good. Then we will put this viewing on hold until you all return. Dinner will be waiting for you as well. Off you go," Shacklebolt commanded. With much muttering among themselves, the leaders vanished, the crows, however, remained.
The fighters roared in joy and cheered when their leaders appeared at the front of the tent. Jason smiled broadly at the enthusiastic response, and raised his hands for silence. It had been decided between him and Shacklebolt that Kingsley would deal with all the strategic requirements and that Jason would deal with the people themselves as more forest people were represented than wizards.
"We your leaders are proud of all of you. You fought hard and won with no losses. That is the best kind of war if one must fight one at all. The enemy still living are imprisoned, none escaped so our world is safe at last. While all of you enjoy your reward in a good meal, conversation, and returning home to your loved ones, we will be preparing for the final steps. Your leaders will gather you to them for further instructions. Pay heed to what they say. Secrecy must be continued for just awhile longer so be patient with us. Your leaders will tell you why this must be. Again, we are proud of you all for ending this abominable war!" Jason repeated. A roar met those final words. "Now join with your leaders, rest, and enjoy your victory!" With those final words, Jason and Shacklebolt vanished.
Wanting to get to the food and celebration, the soldiers quickly rose and hurried to that part of the tent where their leader stood waiting. For the next twenty minutes, the leaders repeated Shacklebolt's instructions, answered questions the best they could, then released them all to their celebrations.
Soon all the leaders and members of the council met again in the tower, their dinners waiting as promised and drinks refilled. "Before we begin the meeting again, please enjoy your meals," Shacklebolt instructed.
The sounds of quiet conversation and eating filled the space for a time then when all had finished and the house elves had refilled drinks and removed everything else, everyone settled and prepared to listen and watch what came next.
Shacklebolt settled back in his seat and nodded toward the head Dwarf. "Blayrock please restart the memory and stop when I say to. Everyone watch more closely this time rather than just being passive about it."
It took well past midnight and the devouring of two more meals before all reports had been watched and every aspect of each battle or skirmish had been picked apart, studied, and discussed until everyone was satisfied nothing had been missed. Shacklebolt finally called an end and the unusual Pensieve was sent away by Blayrock. Everyone's attention turned to their co-leaders for final instructions.
"It has been an extremely long day and night and our brains be packed with all we've seen and heard so now we need to prepare for the next steps. We have packed our brains with everything we can to be prepared for the next steps. But before those next steps are discussed and implemented, it is time to rest and refresh ourselves. You are welcome to remain here if you wish or go home. We will spend a few days letting our minds absorb and understand the enormous amount of information we've taken in and allow our bodies to relax from the high tension we built up to take out our enemy. We deserve … nay, need a respite," Jason said with a heavy sigh.
"I am all for that, Jason," Terrene, the leader of the muggle strike team said, stretching his arms over his head to release tension. "And since I am not needed for what you plan next, I will bid you all a farewell and a appreciative thank you for allowing I and my team to do our part in ending this conflict at last. It was an honor to fight with you. Do keep me informed of how it all comes out when you finally confront the government here." He rose from his seat.
Jason and Shacklebolt also stood. "You and your team's help and assistance have been invaluable, Terrene. We are honored to have met you and had you at our side. Safe travels," Jason said. "And yes, I will ensure you get word of what transpires," Shacklebolt added.
Terrene nodded respectfully toward them both then waited to be transported.
Knowing he would be responsible for transporting a good number of the army back to their homes and especially, the muggle leader, Terrene and his team to their headquarters in muggle London, Blayrock had already summoned his volunteer transporters and they appeared immediately to one side of the room.
As the rest of the people rose, those that needed transport moved toward the waiting Dwarves. The army, enjoying and celebrating in the tent on the training grounds, had already been transported home hours ago by apparition from the house elves. There had been no need to transport them away by Dwarf device. But none of the army could return without the Dwarves help as the Elder Council grounds were unplotable. So by the time the meeting of the leaders ended the tent was gone and all was quiet in the forest as dusk settled in.
As the full moon began to wane and, in fairly rapid succession, the leaders either apparated or flew away home until all that remained were Jason, Shacklebolt, Aestra, Annis, Headmaster Dumbledore, Madame Bones, Snape, Blayrock, and Fawkes.
"Do you have a time line as to when you will announce the war is over and Voldemort is dead?" Madame Bones asked, frowning. "We've done a very good job so far keeping it a secret but then this whole thing from start to finish only took a month. However, any longer and it will come out whether we are ready or not."
"I agree, Madame Bones, that we cannot delay much longer. However, there are many moving parts to the release of information. Which is why I cannot give you a firm date." He held up a palm to forestall the anger he saw forming on her face.
"Please hear me out. This is what needs to happen. First the draft of the contract we wish the Wizengamot to agree to needs to be firmed up and finalized. With the war now ended and all facts seen, the contract needs to be updated and agreed to by all in the Elder Council. Next is the carefully worded message we need to craft then send over through the Quibbler and radio. You could help with that. We also need to set up with the many leaders of the wizarding world and the Wizengamot to inform them of the Elder Council's decision to be a part of wizarding society and governance. And, finally, we need to decide how the prisoners will be handled and punished..."
"You have no jurisdiction on the prisoners in the Dark Tower at Hogwarts, nor the Death Eaters you have in your jail," Madame Bones was quick to point out.
Jason eyed her a moment before nodding. "I agree that be your responsibility, Madame Bones," he conceded but then his expression hardened, "However, if they manage somehow to escape you, then it will be we who will administer swift justice and there will be no argument about it." He held up a hand to halt an objection from her and Dumbledore. "You have had ample time to take these individuals into custody over the years, but no matter the reasons, the fact remains you didn't. This war can't be truly declared ended until all guilty parties are punished."
Bones stared at Jason's forbidding face and decided this was not something she should continue to push for so gave in gracefully as did Dumbledore.
"Agreed," she reluctantly agreed. Dumbledore nodded.
"Glad we understand one another, Madame Bones," Jason said. "Now, the other matters be what should be done about Minister Fudge and others of his council."
Bones blinked in surprise then frowned, "What do you mean by that?"
"It has not escaped our notice that Minister Fudge and his fellow conspirators have failed in their duty to protect the people of this country and are guilty of fraternizing with the enemy within their headquarters. We wont be taking him on, but we fully expect you to bring charges against him and have the guilty removed," Jason explained.
The leader of the Aurors winced and sighed. "Politics is perilous even under the best of circumstances and this is definitely not one of those good times. It requires hard facts to oust a minister, especially this one. I have been trying to get Fudge removed, but he has managed to keep his own hands clean of any wrong doing. Unfortunately, making poor judgments is the purview of politicians in all areas of government so we can't make an arrest over that behavior. The people have to vote to remove him."
"Then it appears we need to insure when we announced the events of the past month to the Wizengamot that Minister Fudge's indiscretions are brought to light for the public to see and hear."
"Excuse me, Jason," Dumbledore interrupted. "If you are not careful the Elder Council could be charged with defamation of character by Fudge which would not help your case against him and drag the whole affair out for months."
Jason smiled grimly, "Of that I am aware, Headmaster which is why we will insure everything we say is accompanied by proof."
The broad smile Jason displayed was arctic. "Do not worry yourselves, good sir. We will not allow this man and his fellows to remain in office long, I assure you."
Slowly Dumbledore and Bones returned the smile. They had learned just how thorough the Elder Council was during this whole affair so if he said he had enough evidence, that was good enough for them. Fudge's days in office were numbered.
"Alright, I don't know about Headmaster Dumbledore, but I am willing to wait for you to get all you need done before announcement. You are right, for this announcement to be believed, all facts must be written in such a way that no one fails to realize what has happened and belief it firmly. The public is a fickle beast but once it's assured the facts they hear are true, it will be they that will sway the government to believe as well. So I will do my best to curb my need to have this happen soon. But please, so be as swift as you can be. I do not think we have much time before rumor could destroy your efforts."
"I will certainly take that warning under advisement and do ensure you both that the council will get this done very soon," Jason said solemnly.
"Then I too will try to be patient as well," Dumbledore added his agreement.
"Then good sir, we will leave now to return to our own duties and let you drop the hammer as it were on the last of the people's enemies. I have a very good feeling you and the council will succeed in getting a seat in the government without a doubt. I personally, cannot wait for the fallout and the rebuild of our society to begin," Bones said with feeling.
Jason smiled gravely and nodded his head in pleased acknowledgment. "A good day to you both. Now if you will excuse me, I and the council have some work left to do before we can seek our rest."
Dumbledore and Bones nodded back and, with relief, apparated home.