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Chapter One: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
20 June 2013
Cold gripped his chest. Green flashes filled the periphery of his vision. Shrill screams rent the night around him while smoky black shapes, silhouetted against the orange glow of the spreading fire in the distance, fled in every direction. He crouched low beside what used to be a handsome garden wall. His heart beat too-fast tattoo somewhere in his throat. Something warm and sticky made a clammy path down the side of his face. Everything smelled of ash and blood.
Ash and blood.
Brown eyes stared blindly from behind smeared, cracked, round glasses. Smears of red trailed from the nostrils, ears, and mouth.
Broken stairs barred his way, and then another set of useless, dulled irises made him falter. Red hair. So much red hair splayed around a bleached face dotted with sand-coloured freckles.
Blood smeared the bars of the empty crib.
He howled in agony. The images slid around and drained from his head as his body slowly woke, but it took several moments longer for his howls to calm to broken whines. The black wolfhound curled in on itself until the whines and the disjointed flashes to abate. It still felt cold, but the pain seemed numbed in comparison. His belly ached, but he felt no worse for it. Hunger further distracted him from the memories that plagued his nightmares.
Movement rustled beyond the bars, and the cold pressed more insistently against his matted fur and lice-bitten flesh until it faded to almost nothing. He resisted the urge to whine again as his mind focused and his bones shifted, and by the time the ward door screeched open, a man lay in the dog's place. Footsteps echoed loudly through the wide hall, and the darkness fled by inches beneath the influence of a pale white light. The snapping, shuffling tread stopped.
He didn't recognise the voice. He blinked, stared at its owner through the dim, and frowned. He didn't recognise the face, either.
"Prisoner Black, approach the bars."
The man trembled violently as he forced his limbs to comply. The speaker waited for him to stumble nearer until Sirius leaned heavily against the cold, greasy, dirt-smeared iron with his bony hands wrapped around two bars with his face framed between them.
"Stick out your tongue."
He complied. Three cold, bitter drops landed there, and he realised belatedly that some of the ache in his belly belonged to thirst, not hunger. It didn't matter, though. A wonderful lightness filled his head.
"What is your name?"
"Sirius Orion Black."
Someone he could not see beyond the white glow wrote something down. He could hear the unmistakable scratch of a quill against parchment.
"What is your crime?"
The gaunt man wanted to say 'murder,' but the potion's insidious power curled his tongue for a more exact answer.
The speaker's wand, which he held carefully pointed at the prisoner, faltered a little.
He clarified as was expected of him. He felt like crying, but the potion kept his voice even and his mind dulled.
"I tried to kill Peter Pettigrew. He got away."
"I tried to kill him for betraying Lily, James and Harry."
Another voice cut across the response the first speaker had intended, but Sirius couldn't see him or her from behind the white glow.
"What was the verdict given to you at the conclusion of your trial?"
Sirius paused. His brain was slow to conjure an answer.
"I don't know."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't remember a trial. I was brought directly here."
He blinked during the silence his response brought on. His knees shook. He felt so tired and weak.
"Let's go. We have to report back."
Sirius didn't remember them leaving, really. He just recalled the door closing again, and the cold coming back, so he slipped again into the hound's body and lay again in the corner. His mind slid again between awareness and sleep, where his dreams took him back to the worst day of his life.
26 June 2013
"Step aside, foul idiot," Quirrell shrilly shrieked. "You're my beast, and you shall obey me!"
The turbaned professor snarled, and his black robes swirled and swished with him as he danced around the frantic strikes of Bob's club. Debris and dust flew through the air. The acrid smell of the troll, so like an open sewer in the middle of summer, burned Harry's nasal passages while he struggled against the cords restricting his arms and straining his shoulders. He could not move. Some force held him glued to the floor. Bob roared and swung for Quirrell again. The crazed thief snapped his wand, and a bolt of crackling burgundy sped toward the beast. Harry's mouth tasted of blood and bile.
"Get away, Bob!" the boy screamed. "Run! I'm fine! Run!"
Grey mist obscured the combatants, and two heavy, smacking thuds echoed across the chamber. The stench intensified, and Harry dry heaved. He dared not look up. That horrible voice was laughing. Cackling in unholy delight at the creature's violent demise.
"Look, Potter!" it cried gleefully. "You're next, and then your mudblood sister, her mother, and the Doctor, too."
The hiss built until it was all he could hear. His vision filled with green. Someone screamed, but the sound seemed muted beneath the hiss.
Quirrell's head turned while the rest of his body remained facing forward, and scarlet eyes pinned him. His chest ached, and he realised he couldn't breathe. The professor's arm moved slowly, like through water, and aimed the wand at him. Its tip glowed emerald.
The boy sat up, and the agonised scream cut off. He could hear a faint buzzing in his ears, and familiar blurs moved nearby. His throat hurt, and the air tasted of petrichor. The cotton of his pyjamas stuck coolly to his back and chest, where his heart beat frantically against his ribs. The nearest blur offered him a hand, and Harry gratefully took his glasses.
Rose came into focus. Faint lavender shadows darkened the skin under her hazel green eyes, and a line puckered her brow. Her long, auburn-dyed hair stuck up out of the high, messy bun she wore for bed. A few strands clung to her right cheek over pink pillow marks.
"All right?" she whispered.
She moved her hand, and Harry belatedly realised she had been stroking his sweaty hair. He nodded wearily and slumped back against his pillows.
"Yeah," he mumbled. "Bob, again."
He scooted to the other side of his bed and stripped his damp shirt off once he'd moved from the damp spot of perspiration. He pulled the blankets pulled up to his chin, and a faint plop denoted the garment's fall to the floor. His mum rolled her eyes and smiled, but the wrinkle in her brow did not straighten.
"I changed your nappies, you know," she hummed. "No need for embarrassment."
"I'm just cold," Harry defended.
The bed shifted and dipped slightly as Rose settled over the covers beside her son, who tiredly squirmed further away to make more room. Her fingers returned to carding through his mussed hair, and Harry closed his eyes at the comforting sensation.
"What time is it?" he asked after a while. "Don't we have to go into the Ministry in the morning?"
Rose's fingernails lightly scratched his scalp, and Harry felt himself relaxing by inches, starting from the head down. He breathed deeply to wash the memory of the stink out of his nose. It still smelled like magic, but his mum's presence added a hint of apple to the air. His heart slowed.
"It's not quite four," she hummed. "I wanted to get up early, though, so don't feel too bad. I have a couple things to wrap up for Torchwood before we see Madam Bones."
"You hate mornings," the boy muttered. "I'm fine. You should go back to bed, Mum."
"Nah," she smiled.
She changed the pattern of her movements to trace circles over his crown. Harry yawned widely.
"Let me mother you while you're still small enough for me to make you enjoy it."
Soon enough, the boy's breathing evened out into quiet, shallow snores. Rose remained, however, stroking his hair and staring into his face, until sunshine peeked around the edges of his curtains on the opposite side of the room.
At a much more reasonable hour later that morning, Harry descended the stairs in his Wizarding best. He finished knotting his silk tie as he entered the kitchen. His dad sat on the countertop next to Jenny, who held half of a gigantic bacon, egg and cheddar sandwich. Her feet kicked back and forth several feet off the ground, and the Doctor's trainers mimicked hers with less clearance. He grinned when his son entered, and a plate laden with the other half of the monstrous breakfast sailed through the air into Harry's hands.
"Good morning!" the Doctor sang. "I've got tea on, too, if you want some."
"Morning," the boy said after swallowing his first mouthful. "Not coming with us, then?"
"Of course he isn't," Jenny declared imperiously. "Daddy and I are going to go decorate our Hogwarts flat, and then we're going to visit Mr Hagrid."
Harry smiled and sighed dramatically.
"I'm going to miss the good old days when I got to spend all year away from you…"
The little girl gave him a furious glare, and he held up his hands in supplication.
"You know I'm joking," he quickly amended. "I hope you have fun. Hagrid's got some orphan unicorn foals around somewhere, though I never got to see them. If you ask nicely, I'm sure he'll show them to you."
The Doctor tapped his wristwatch and slid off the counter to accept his son's empty plate. Under his direction, it hopped into the washer with a gentle clink beside a tidy row of its fellows.
"Your mum's in the sitting room," he said. "Do you have your panic button?"
"Of course," Harry nodded and flashed the ring on his right hand. "Haven't taken it off since, you know."
His father's dark brows rose at the boy's grimace.
"It's not that I thought you'd forget," he added gently. "It's just knee-jerk after we summoned your portkey back, and it showed up at the safe house without you attached to it. Parental redundancy."
"I know, Dad."
The Doctor loped across the kitchen to ruffle Harry's carefully smoothed hair, which spawned a complaint and a brief tousle.
"Jemmy, it's time to go!"
With his mother's call serving as a convenient excuse, the boy extricated himself from his father's grip and ran from the kitchen. A moment later, a swoosh and the smell of smoke denoted their departure.
Rose stepped first from one of the many gilded fireplaces lining the Ministry's atrium with a flurry of her midnight blue coattails and a swirl of smoke clinging stubbornly to the hem of her ankle-length skirt. Harry jogged out of the hearth after her to look about in interest. Though he had never accompanied his parents to the ministry, he imagined it to be similar to his grandfather's offices. Like all wizardspace he'd explored thus far, however, magic and vintage sensibilities of its occupants prevented too close a comparison.
Witches and wizards milled en masse through the long room, while overhead, the peacock-blue ceiling swam with shifting runes in shimmering gold like the scrolling ads across the Jumbotrons on Piccadilly Circus. Their robes – some fitted, some flowing, and in all colours and patterns imaginable – made the long hall look crowded. Their blurred reflections flashed across black tiles and polished ebony planks panelling the walls and the highly polished floor, furthering the illusion. Rose put a hand on Harry's shoulder and steered him deftly past a bubbling fountain that featured a golden wizard, witch, centaur, goblin and house elf. The boy briefly wondered what the Doctor's Goblin friends thought of the vacantly adoring expression depicted on their representation's face. Even the witch looked admiringly to the wizard beside her, who, positioned as he was on his own pedestal in the shimmering water, loomed unrealistically tall over the others so as to seem their benevolent leader.
"Hello Mrs Smith. What can I do for you, today?"
Harry turned his head and found himself positioned in front of a security desk occupied by a poorly-shaven, peacock-blue clad guard and a brass scale fitted over an instrument which looked quite a lot like a telegraph ticker.
"Good morning, Eric. I'm here to sign my exit documents, and I thought I'd give my Harry a tour," Rose said smoothly with a charming smile for the watchwizard.
Eric grinned as two silver badges appeared on the desk's edge, which he picked up to read the neat embossed print.
"Let's see here… 'Mrs Rose Smith – Tedious Paper Work and Family Tour' and 'Harry-'"
Eric's brows furrowed, and he squinted up at the boy in question.
Harry smiled mildly at him and offered his wand for weighing, having had the process explained to him days beforehand.
"Er- Aw, Mrs Smith," the watchwizard complained as he placed the holly wand in the scale's velvet-lined trough after an extended stare. "You should have told me ahead of time you were bringing Harry Potter in. I mean, the Minister would have wanted to send a personal tour guide or somethin'."
"I'm sorry," Rose frowned. "I really hadn't thought about it, but if you'll send a note off to let him know, I'm sure I can take Harry by his office before I go."
"Thank you, Ma'am," he breathed. "He's always on me about announcing the important visitors. Here we are, young man, 'Harry Potter – Tourist'."
The boy accepted the badge along with a slip of paper with his wand's information on it, and with Eric's wave of approval, the two returned to the morning traffic headed toward the gleaming lifts lining the rear of the atrium. However, just steps away from the crowded grates, Rose took a sharp left to lead the way through a pair of unobtrusive doors, where they emerged before a spiralling, wrought iron staircase. In the narrow shaft of space allotted for the stairs, only a few eerie globes of bluish light lit kept them from utter darkness as they began their ascent. With each step, the flighty nerves in Harry's gut intensified uncomfortably until he felt ill whenever he looked at the perfect spiralling twist stretching up above them.
"Are you sure you're O.K. with this, Jemmy?"
Rose's usually teasing voice sounded gentle and quiet in the echoing stairwell, and Harry expelled a long sigh.
"Yeah," he finally muttered. "It's the right thing to do, whether he sold them out or not."
He felt her fingers smooth his hair (save the cowlick at the top of his crown) back into its tidy, pomaded order, and he felt immediately better when he caught her proud smile.
"You're such a great kid," she approved. "I know this is completely bonkers, but it'll all work out."
As she had indicated to Eric the watchwizard, Rose led her son from the Level 2 landing through another innocuous door onto another blandly wallpapered corridor. They passed the lifts, out of which flowed a number of purple paper airplanes and several wizards in business-casual or scarlet robes. Harry paused at his mother's direction to let them rush off to their offices.
"Inter-office memos," she explained. "They tried miniature owls for a while but they quickly got sick of the mess. Apparently, even vanishing charms can get tedious."
Harry found it hard to picture Ministry personnel dodging droppings, let alone having to clean them up.
"I can imagine," he laughed.
The pair followed the paper squadron through an archway of twisting iron and glass into a foyer resplendent in yet more azure. A pretty witch with a short, angular black bob and a blunt fringe sat behind a rounded, horseshoe desk trimmed in gold at its centre. Music hummed from an old 1930s wireless behind her, and a teetering stack of mixed paper and heavier parchment sat by her left elbow. Her right hand dashed across the sheet in front of her, and when she reached its end, a blotter jumped from the head of the desk to rapidly dry the document. Another page quickly sailed from the waiting queue to replace it as soon at it flitted to the outbox on her right.
Harry had never seen hand-written paperwork look so efficient.
"Good morning June," Rose called as they reached her desk.
The brunette looked up in surprise, and Harry spotted an ink smudge on her right cheek.
"Hello Rose! Oh- And Jamie, right?" the pretty brunette grinned. "What're you doing here? I thought you and John were leaving us for professorships, lucky girl. You're going to miss Mr Malfoy coming in and raising a fuss."
She jabbed her wand at the stack on her desk, and the papers immediately stopped their anxious teetering. Another flick sent the quill to its holder, and the blotter started a quick jig over her work to prevent any accidental smudges during the interim.
"Well, he deserved to be raided," Rose smirked. "The man had a veritable arsenal of Non-Magical killing trinkets just in his drawing room. But I thought Arthur and Dawlish were going to handle that report."
June snorted and rolled her eyes.
"Yes, but that leaves their annual filing to me. Course, they have me going through the bulk of everyone else's too. Not that anyone has time to do it or anything," June said wryly. "You know, if they actually filed their paperwork correctly in the first place, these annual clean-ups wouldn't take so long."
The redhead hummed sympathetically.
"Sorry it's such a chore. The boys are completely hopeless, aren't they?"
"You know it," June sighed. "I'd tell them to piss off if Scrimgeor wouldn't sack me, but there you go. Anyway, what are you doing here, now that I'm done complaining?"
Her eyes flicked to the young wizard shifting somewhat anxiously at his mother's side.
"Just exit paperwork," Rose said flippantly. "Do you think the Director has a minute for me? She also wanted to see my son about that nasty business the end of last year."
"Oh-" she grimaced. "That 'incident' none of us are supposed to talk about, you mean?"
She twisted and rolled her wooden chair around to the stretch of desk on her right side, where a little grid of purple and grey glass marbles lay like a panel set into its surface. Beneath each orb, a small brass plate assigned its owner's name. She poked the marble labelled Amelia Bones with the tip of her wand, and the bell above the gilt double doors directly behind her rang obligingly.
"I always have to double-check," June clarified at Harry's raised brow. "The indicators can be a little finicky. She's in her office, and her schedule's open this morning aside from filing. Go on in."
"Thanks, love," Rose hummed. "I'll floo you for drinks sometime."
The doors swung open before Rose could touch it. A woman with iron-grey hair, a shining monocle, and severely straight-backed posture waited for them before a wall of windows whose wood-framed panes looked out onto row upon row of Ministry Law Enforcement workers, Aurors and Hit Wizards swarming around hexagonal cubicles as they went about their work. Little purple paper airplanes flew overhead, and sheaves of parchment sailed between file boxes and sorters. Harry thought it would have closely resembled a beehive's cross-section had the wizards' robes been yellow.
"Good morning, Mrs Smith," the woman greeted. "Come to say your goodbyes before your resignation finalises tomorrow, or in response to my previous request?"
She paused as she evaluated her former employee's escort.
"And who is this?"
Harry stepped forward and extended a hand to the intimidating director.
"Harry Potter-Smith, Ma'am," he smiled. "I don't think we had the pleasure of meeting at the end of term."
Her severe brows rose as she shook his hand.
"Amelia Bones, and it's a pleasure, indeed. You were still bed-bound when I interviewed Madam Pomfrey," she thrummed. "You're quite a lot handsomer without the layer of filth."
Rose grinned and Harry flushed a bit around the ears as they took the plush chairs before the broad mahogany desk, and Amelia retook her high-backed chair behind it.
"You're right on both counts," Rose supplied to answer her prior query. "Also, I am going to miss you."
"Not as much as you'll enjoy Hogwarts, I'm sure," Amelia scoffed. "You can't tell me Muggle Artefacts wasn't boring as bricks down, and that's not even taking into consideration your general occupation. It's insulting, making you do paperwork. Arthur's an excellent man and a good Wizard, but he'd be the first to say he's out of his depth when it comes to actually working with non-magicals. What's-his-name ought to have been put out on his ear ages ago, and you should have been helping to lead the department within a month of your starting. Just because you're lacking in the spell-casting area-"
Throughout her rant, the witch directed her desk to tidy itself and conducted a large stack of manila envelopes into the floor-to-ceiling filing cabinets lining the grimily papered wall to their left. Rose watched in amusement and laughed softly when she finished.
"That right there is why it wasn't offered," she said plainly. "I appreciate the sentiment, but it doesn't matter, so they can all just shove off while I teach their kids."
Amelia smirked as a plum-coloured file folder walked across the desk to stop at Rose's place. She took the quill the older woman offered and started going through the motions while the director returned her attention to Harry. She stared at him for several moments, and Harry stared evenly back.
Rose's quill scratched across the parchment. The grandfather clock beside the door ticked loudly, and although the sound of the working law enforcement personnel remained locked beyond the wall of windows, Harry could hear the lobby wireless humming cheery jazz.
"So, did your mum explain why I wanted to see you, Mr Potter-Smith?" Amelia finally asked.
"She said the Wizengamot disapproved the appeal to try Professor Dumbledore for impeding an ongoing investigation, child endangerment and gross negligence, and that everything was sent to the school board," he said slowly. "But Dad said you wanted to get my testimony for the record, just in case something comes up later."
"That's mostly correct," the grey-haired woman nodded. "I actually wanted your permission to take a copy of your memories. Since Saint Mungo's confirmed the ashes from the corridor as Quirrell's, we need to verify what happened."
Harry's breath hissed through his teeth, and Amelia's expression softened as she examined his blanched face.
The quill stopped its rustling trek.
"You're not in trouble," she added. "The other children already testified as to what happened, and it's clearly self-defence, regardless of what happened. You're the only one aside from him who was there through the entire experience. I thought it might be easier than talking about it."
The boy paused at the touch of his mother's hand on his knee.
"Amelia, you will need to seal these memories away once you've finished your report," Rose whispered. "You know how people will react."
Amelia's monocled eye narrowed. A flick of her wand darkened the glass behind her, and a few more swishes spun a hazy blue field over the remaining walls and door before it hummed and disappeared from view. Harry stared around in amazement, and Rose relaxed in her seat.
"Privacy wards. Listening charms won't work through it, and to them it looks like we're laughing about something," Director Bones explained while she drew the letter out of its sheath. "Now, I thought you and the Doctor theorised it was the Dark Lord, not that it was."
She spoke the words in clipped, accusing tones while her gaze shifted to Mrs Smith.
"We hypothesised, but we were very confident in our hypothesis long before that night," Rose firmly clarified. "I didn't lie to you when we brought you our original concerns. Who else would have the sort of power to bypass Gringotts' security? Possessions do warp the possessor's features, and red eyes aren't uncommon in those rare scenarios according to the records we have, but the kids' descriptions are a clear match, as is what Harry said about their confrontation."
The clock's rhythmic tick-tock counted a long pause while Amelia shrewdly evaluated both mother and son.
"Do you give your permission?" she finally grunted.
Harry caught his mother's eye and sighed when she didn't answer.
"Yes," he agreed.
"Right," the witch smiled wryly, and a wand appeared in her hand with a flick of her wrist. "This won't hurt, young man. Just focus on that evening, starting from when you were taken from the infirmary."
The child stiffened when the cool tip of Amelia's wand made contact with the centre of his forehead, and his eyes closed against the disturbing image while he obligingly pulled the memory from his deep storage, where he diligently put it every morning.
Although he was not a true Time Lord (despite his Time-Lordliness, as his dad put it) and therefore remained incapable of limitless and near-perfect memory, the Doctor held no compunctions in providing his kids with the closest comparison he could conceive: the method of loci, better known as the Mind Palace.
His took the shape of a laptop.
As the taste of candyfloss filled his mouth and a peculiar coolness spread across his forehead, he imagined the device unfolding. The black screen blinked on much faster than his iBook at home would have, and the password prompt flashed away with a few taps of his fingertips against the keyboard. He drilled into his Media folder, past the icons representing his memories and dreams, and into a folder labelled Bob. A double-click opened it, and a quick scroll brought him to the film-reel representing the last night they went through the trapdoor.
Too fast for a real computer, his media player loaded the video, and he carefully pulled his mental self away from the computer screen to allow Amelia, who saw naught but his scrunched face, to copy the memory. He blinked as shimmering silver strands overtook the screen, and his real eyes opened.
Bright, diaphanous threads rapidly flew from his temple to spin around to the end of the witch's wand until it looked like a broken spider's web draped over the wood. Amelia stared in surprise.
"I take it you're an occlumens, then? Most take a few minutes at least to give me this much," she mused while guiding the strands into a phial. "I only just said the spell. It's unusual to have quite that much control at your age."
"That's what Professor Snape says," Harry shrugged. "Dad's a good tutor, though. I'm pretty sure he could teach anyone anything given enough time."
Rose snorted and returned to her paperwork. The incredulous Madam Bones had no answer for the boy, so she busied herself by laying charms Harry couldn't decipher aside from their flavours while he watched in interest. When she deemed the phial secure enough, she pressed her thumb against the handle for her top right desk drawer. Yet more spells opened a concealed compartment. Ozone tinged with ginger and chillies – Harry was strongly reminded of Thai food – joined the cocktail while she finished her protections. But as the drawer closed, the flavour and smell of copper made him frown.
"Are you bleeding?"
Amelia blinked. Harry frowned between them. The women shared a confused look and burst suddenly into uproarious laughter. The soon-to-be-twelve-year-old's expression slipped from concern (during and immediately following his question) to bemusement, followed by mortification so quickly Rose worried his face may not return to its normal shade.
His voice squeaked horribly.
"I just- I thought- I smelled copper so I thought you might have cut yourself on something."
He looked on miserably while the women slowly controlled their mirth.
"It's a blood-based lock, but quite a bit stronger than the ones on your average trunk," she explained with a cool, shark-like grin. "Anyone who tries to get into this drawer who isn't me will find themselves glued to the surface with few options for escape, save amputation."
Harry glanced at his mother and chewed the inside of his cheek.
"Are there other ways of identifying a person?" he asked after a moment's contemplation. "Non-magicals have DNA, fingerprints, retinal scanners, and facial identification, so I wondered at the differences."
Madam Bones reclined a little in her seat, crossed her arms, and pursed her lips in thought.
"Well, we've established the use of blood. Saint Mungo's always takes a sample whenever someone checks in, and they've got both spells and potions to give them the information they need when it comes to checking against their records. You can't fool blood, even with a polyjuice potion. That only rearranges your pieces temporarily, but you'll always revert because everything that makes you what you are remains in your veins," she explained. "There's also spell identification using Prior Incantanto. Cast on a wand, it'll show the last several spells beginning with the most recent. Wands are also registered with a specific wizard, so that's a simple method of identification, too."
"Huh," Harry frowned. "Which did they use to put Sirius Black in Azkaban?"
Amelia's dark grey brows drew together in a severe line.
"Crouch ran things to the letter, even during war-time," she murmured sombrely. "He was determined to make it so those who helped the Dark Lord stayed out of the game. There were more lifetime sentences and veil-walks those days than ever before or since. Even so, there would have been riots if the sentencing didn't rely on incontrovertible proof. A lot of people no one expected turned out to be Death Eaters or their accomplices. I imagine he had the arresting Aurors use every method in their arsenal to build his case, but the Spell Reversal Effect would have been the most important evidence for his trial in addition to the arresting Aurors' testimony."
Although Harry had broached the subject differently than they originally planned, this was the topic he and his mother actually wanted to discuss with the Director of Magical Law Enforcement. Rose did not waste the opportunity.
"Sorry," she said on cue. "But Sirius Black wasn't tried."
"Of course he was," Madam Bones dismissed automatically. "I know Wizarding Britain's social and civil policies are a bit behind the Queen's muggle government, but we do hold ourselves to some standards."
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat, but Rose took the denial in stride.
"I'm sorry, Amelia," she countered, "But when the Doctor retrieved Harry's record, he said he also checked Sirius Black's file in the public archives to make sure our custody couldn't be challenged by any of his relatives. I'm sure you understand, considering the Black Family's reputation. Anyway, it only had his booking form for Azkaban and a note from his sentencing, declared on November 2nd. We even submitted a formal request for the rest of his records to see the ruling regarding how Harry's guardianship was to be handled-"
The redhead fished in her pocket and withdrew a heavy purple envelope. She passed it to Madam Bones, who quickly withdrew the letter and sat back to read with narrowed eyes.
Dear Mr and Mrs Smith,
Thank you for your inquiry. After careful review of the case files, we regret to inform you that your request for the criminal records of Sirius Orion Black has been denied based on a lack of documentation showing Legal Necessity in accordance to Ministry Information Access regulations. However, in light of your concern as dutiful parents under unique circumstances, I was given permission to provide you with the following:
Under Section 5, Subsection A6 of the Martial Order, Law and Justice Act passed 20 April 1996, any person charged with treason against Magical Britain may be sentenced given sufficient evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Suffice to say, the testimony and physical evidence provided fulfilled these requirements, which led to his conviction for the murder of Peter Pettigrew and twelve muggles and as an accessory in the murder of James and Lily Potter. You may feel confident in informing young Mr Potter that justice prevailed in this case, overall.
Further, the severity of Mr Black's crimes and subsequent conviction invalidated any potential guardianship requests by his relations. If you have observed all the laws and customs of the muggle government in obtaining Mr Potter's custody, you may be rest assured that your claim is both legal and valid. If for any reason someone were to challenge your custody through the Ministry, we would inform you in accordance to your rights as lawful magical guardians wizarding child.
The involvement of our citizenry is of utmost importance to the success of our government, and so we truly appreciate your interest in this matter. Please relay our sympathies to Mr Potter, again, and thank you for your care toward Wizarding Britain's most illustrious hero.
Dolores Jane Umbridge
Office of the Minister for Magic
Harry and Rose watched the woman's severely held expression. Her scowl deepened, and her grip on the letter tightened significantly.
"I never received this request," she said carefully. "Which concerns me almost as much as the phrasing in the letter itself."
"What's wrong?" Rose asked with a thoughtful frown. "I mean, we thought it was odd response, but we corroborated the law ourselves after we received the letter. John just assumed it was the usual red tape."
Amelia took up a fountain pen and hummed sceptically.
"First off, official procedure dictates this sort of thing would be handled by one of our junior Aurors, given my approval, after which you'd receive an answer through your solicitor, if you've one on retainer," she explained in a wry, business-like manner. "Between you and me, Rose, Umbridge may be a hag and a racist, but she's a stickler for regulation if nothing else. She's the type to make a new law to accommodate her rather than bend the rules when there are witnesses about."
The director cancelled the sticking charm on her monocle with an impatient twitch of her wand and carefully tucked it into the breast pocket of her robes. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her legs to examine the mother and son across from her critically. She balanced the notepad on her knee and swung the pen idly back and forth by its end.
"I may not be a Slytherin like your clever boy, there," she said with a sly look at Harry. "But I'm not gullible, either. You could have given this to me anytime, so what is it you really want?"
The redhead had the grace to look apologetic and nodded to her son, who squared his slim shoulders to look the Director in the eye.
"I want to speak to my godfather," he said quietly. "Whatever my birth parents died for still isn't over, or I wouldn't have been involved in what happened this spring. He would have had to been there if he was my mother and father's secret keeper, so he probably saw what happened. I wanted to read the court transcripts, but since this Umbridge person's blocking us, it looks like there's more going on, and I'd prefer to hear it from him. So many other things were mismanaged when I was little…"
He sighed and looked down at his folded hands.
"I need to know the truth. Everything in my file's wrong, and yet everyone just accepts everything they've been told about my family as gospel. I haven't actually seen the evidence myself, so for all I know, he could even be innocent."
Madam Bones considered Harry's drawn, serious features for a long while before she dropped her face into her hands and rest her elbows on the desk.
"You two make my life so hard," she complained. "First that mess with Dumbledore, now this. I'm still up to my ears in paperwork for that debacle – A miracle considering half of it got irreversibly 'lost' in someone's gold-lined pockets – And now you want me to pull the most hated man in Wizarding Britain out of the hole we threw them in like we've got a sense of humanity or something."
Rose laughed lightly and shrugged with an impish grin on her face. Harry relaxed at her side.
"I love you too, 'Melia."
"Shut it," Bones commanded. "You're not allowed to look so happy when you're giving me actual work to do."
"Thank you," Rose sang as she stood. "I'm really glad you're here, or this country would be a complete loss."
Madam Bones waved her wand to dispel the privacy wards and smirked.
"In all seriousness, thank you," she whispered. "Now I've a legitimate reason to give all this filing to someone else and do some actual Law Enforcement for once. I'll keep you posted."
The door swung open again, and Rose strolled out of the office with a smile on her lips with Harry on her heels. Their direct approach hadn't succeeded, and she and the Doctor may not have accomplished much as assistants in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office and Office of Records, respectively, but they had definitely made some valuable friends. A few strides and a lift-ride later, she and Harry crossed the Atrium to the floos, and in a flash of emerald flames, spun away from London.