Andromeda Tonks walked down the corridor towards her Ministry appointed office located on the fifth floor of the underground complex, and once again, fantasised about murdering her cousin. It was his fault that she had to waste a perfectly fine Sunday with a bunch of people whom she wouldn't trust with a Knut, much less spent time with. She even had to get new dress robes on on short notice which had meant wasting even more money on them. Granted the ivory white shirt and trousers, covered by a dark grey coat, were rather striking and the silver ornaments made her look like a 19th-century officer, but that was not the point. The entire mess could be blamed squarely on Sirius' shoulders. Really, what had he been thinking?
The way had not changed since her Uncle Arcturus had taken her here over twenty years ago and the office of House Black looked just like she remembered it. Dark leather armchairs were placed around a blackwood desk and tasteful yet faded tapestries decorated the walls. The only differences were the thick layer of dust settled over everything and the charmed "window" nowadays showed a brick wall because Magical Maintenance had not bothered to renew the spells. Then again, the room looked like no one had been in there for a decade.
"Well Duchess Black, what a pleasant surprise," a sweet voice filled the air and Andromeda jumped back against the door she had just closed.
"Merlin Cissy, are you trying to get yourself cursed?"
"You are getting sloppy Duchess - " Narcissa replied from one of the armchairs and cancelled her disillusionment charm. Her sister put away her wand and rolled her eyes.
"And stop using that title. Even the Wizengamot does no longer recognise them."
"Well Andi, I'm waiting for a story."
"I came home on Friday and an owl from the Department of Families and Inheritances was waiting on the kitchen table. I thought one of our squib relatives died and it was just the usual notice so consider my surprise when the letter said that the current Head of the Blacks abdicated in favour of me."
"Am I right in thinking that our wayward cousin is behind this?"
"Of course, probably thought that he was doing me a favour and that everyone here would bend over for me."
"To be fair, Uncle Arcturus made it look like that and Sirius understanding of complex matters was barely sufficient to remember how to please a witch," Narcissa giggled.
"I still can't believe that you shagged our cousin."
"I didn't want Lucius to be my first and despite his clumsiness, he was a better lover than my dear husband."
"That I can understand but you continued your illicit affair until three hours before your wedding. You grew up together!"
"And we were both raised in the belief that there was nothing wrong with marrying your cousin. And I still think that there is nothing wrong with love between cousins. Or an aunt and her niece for that matter."
"Our uncle could blackmail half of his voting block and the other half owed him favours or he simply bought the votes he wanted. I don't have three decades to set up such a network nor do I want to," Andromeda said to steer the conversation away from the explicit details her sister was very fond to recall.
"Then declare yourself free of faction and just vote following your own interests. You don't need to align House Black with anybody. We have a tradition of doing just that."
"I won't get anything done if I do that."
"Do you even want to change that much? To raise the Red Banner of the Revolution so to speak?"
"Oh Cissy, what a delightful muggle expression. But tell me, where did you pick it up?"
"I've read a fascinating autobiography by one Ivan Pavlovich about his life as a KGB wizard."
"KGB wizard? That does sound fictional to me. They were a Muggle agency after all."
"Yes, but these Soviets were smart Muggles. They knew how powerful magic is and that for the right incentive Wizards are happy to help them out. But that's enough talk about literature, we have more important things to worry about. Namely, how you are going to deal with the press when they will ambush you once today's session is concluded," Narcissa replied as if they were merely discussing the weather.
"Why would the press hound me?"
"Oh, besides the fact that for the first time in a decade there is a Black sitting in the magical Assembly? And the fact that she is the same Black who was thrown out of the family two decades ago? Well, there's this delightful rumour going around that you adopted a certain Harry Potter."
"Well, I guess I technically did…"
"What in the name of Morgana's nipples possessed you to do that? Have you checked your brain for spell-damage recently? Publicly attacking Dumbledore's plans is political suicide and…" Narcissa shouted until her sister forcefully cut in.
"It was not about politics. The relatives Dumbledore entrusted with Harry are sick excuses of human beings that would fit in splendidly with our brothers in law. Sirius begged me to take him away from those Muggles and you know what he endured before he ran to Auntie Dorea."
"They can't be that bad Andi…"
"Why? Because Dumbledore chose them? It was pretty much them or Lucius and that is not a decision I would want to make. They locked the boy in a closet for fuck's sake! And with closet, I mean a smaller space than your house elves have. Harry shows signs of long-term malnutrition and they even set a dog on him. A dog Cissy! I am really tempted to use them as practice targets for the Cruciatus or maybe the organ-liquefying curse. They had another child and they spoiled it more than Lucius could imagine while treating Harry worse than a house elf."
"So all those tales…"
"The novels? Merlin, how can you believe that a four-year-old can defeat a Vampire while they duel on top of the Orient Express?"
"I was talking about the rumours how Dumbledore was grooming Potter, raising him as an apprentice or giving him advanced lessons."
"All made up," Andromeda snapped and took a deep breath. "Harry is fairly good at defensive magic and charms but his most advanced lesson was studying with two friends who are in the year above him and a questionable yet effective instruction on the Patronus charm. He didn't even know about magic before he turned eleven."
"You took care of that problem, right?"
"They should be arrested by now. Because we wanted to spare Harry the experience of having a defender rip holes into everything he says, Nymphadora decided to frame them for something else. I think it was drug trafficking."
"How positively devious of you two."
"To be honest, it is mostly my daughter's doing. It's quite easy to fabricate big amounts of muggle drugs with the Gemini charm - There is so much of Bella in her that sometimes I'm afraid - "
"Our Bella, before the Lestranges took her. Seeing Nymphadora with Harry brings back memories of how we used to watch over you."
"She certainly has our sister's appetite. And her tendency to act before thinking. I've read her Academy evaluations - Don't look so scandalised, my husband is not the only one with connections in this place and I like to keep an eye on my favourite niece - "
"She is your only niece for quite a few degrees of relation. And the Academy helped her to settle down considerably."
"That is good to hear. Although you will get a lot of heat for it nonetheless."
"Trust me, that is the one argument I am perfectly prepared for. And should anyone of Dumbledore's supporters bring up our sister I will rip them apart."
"Then we only need to worry about you accidentally insulting half of the Wizengamot," Narcissa said with feigned relief.
"Why would that be an issue?"
"Because, dear sister mine, you are as subtle as the Siege-engine curse. Some of the sitting members are complete morons but if you tell them that you are going to make a lot of enemies, really fast."
"I am not going to tell anyone that he's a moron. I have more tact than that."
"And if Lord Zabini approaches you about the latest version of his generation sustainability law?"
"Generation sustainability law?" Andromeda echoed, having never heard that phrase before.
"That's his fancy term for free use, or Ministry sanctioned rape if you want to be blunt. What will you do if Lord Parkinson proposes a marriage contract between his grand niece and your new son?"
"Alright, alright I get it, I don't have the patience to deal with inbred idiots. And Harry is not my son. I am his guardian yes, he became a part of my family, but he does not see me as his mother, something I am very glad about. I may play the role of a mother, but I do not have the right to call myself that. The boy has issues due to those pieces of human waste and I am honestly surprised that he is not an emotional wreck by now. And then there's Hogwarts. After the stories Harry told, I am really glad that Nymphadora is already out of that place. There was a Basilisk on the loose in a school full of children, orchestrated by the stupidity of your husband."
"Are you sure he is not exaggerating?"
"He still has trace amounts of the venom in his blood. Harry only survived due to some freak circumstances involving Phoenix tears and after telling the staff, they did not even bother with as much as a diagnostic spell. The Hogwarts healer missed clear signs of domestic abuse and failed to write the required reports to the Magical Health Board, I already checked that. The first thing I'll do once this waste of time is over is getting Pomfrey's license revoked. I hoped to use the time before the session to sort out the necessary paperwork, but alas, someone had different plans for me," Andromeda finished in a passable imitation of Dumbledore. "So to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Does your sister need a reason to visit you?" the younger witch asked in a sickly sweet tone.
"Cissy, I've known you for over thirty years. I can tell that this is not a social visit."
"Maybe you are sharp enough to survive in the political arena after all. And you were right, I am here for a specific reason. I want you to dissolve my marriage."
"When?" Andromeda asked after a pregnant pause. She had been wondering if she could talk her sister to take that step, but apparently, there was no need for convincing. Then again, Narcissa had already washed out the atrocious blonde dye from her hair, so maybe this decision was not a spur of the moment thing.
"As soon as possible. I know Lucius is up to no good. He and his friends from the good old times are cooking up something big and I do not want to end up in Azkaban because they got themselves caught."
"I don't know, but there's a lot of hired wands. McNair spent the last three weeks travelling through Eastern Europe to find people willing to kill for gold so it is going to be worse than their annual Muggle hunting."
"Azkaban?" Andromeda suggested half-heartedly. Such an undertaking was beyond the blonde man but as his diary plot proved Lucius was able to cause destruction far beyond his magical abilities purely by accident.
"Too risky. My money is in the World Cup final. They built that enormous stadium for one hundred thousand wizards and there are big campgrounds surrounding it filled with easy targets. The Ministry does not have the means to provide sufficient security."
"That is bad."
"It was only a question of time before they would do something drastic."
"And there's nothing we can do about it?"
"No. Everyone knows that my dear husband was controlled with the Imperius-Curse so he cannot possibly plan a Death Eater attack. And should we somehow convince the DMLE that some incident is about to occur he'll simply claim that, as an upstanding member of our society, it was his duty to find out as much as possible about that heinous crime. Or they shift their target and raze a random village."
"You are probably right, Lucius always had the talent to avoid the consequences of his actions. But have you really thought it through? You will lose any rights to Draco if you go through with the divorce?"
"Yes, and that is why I have not slept since I got the notice from the Department of Inheritances. I love my son, I forced myself to endure Lucius for sixteen years for his sake, but at the same time, I do not feel like I have had any impact on him. I tried Andi, I tried and I failed - He is a duplicate of his father - The same egoism - the same lack of compassion."
Seeing her sister's hands shaking Andromeda stepped around the dusty armchair and put her arm around Narcissa. The younger witch grabbed it and pulled Andromeda down to her, burrowing her head into her sister's neck.
"Draco spent most of the last year trying to get a hippogriff executed. I begged him to stop, I begged his father, I told them how much they mean to me and about our last vacation together as sisters at the farm in Asturias where we used to sneak out after midnight and go flying on them. They just shrugged me off and said that the beast has to be punished. I had to write Dumbledore for him to get his head out of his arse before he remembered that it was his duty to take care of any legal action resulting from lessons at his school - "
Narcissa paused to take a deep breath. She would not cry, not now.
"I knew Lucius has always been cruel, but where does a thirteen-year-old take so much hate and loathing from? It was barely a scratch, we all had worse at the farm and that didn't stop us. I look at my son and after everything I did for him, there is nothing from me in Draco. I let Lucius have his way with me for fifteen years and what - "
"Cissy, you said it yourself. You tried to steer your child for his entire life. You spent the last decade making sacrifices. Maybe a few months of separation will make Draco realise the error of his ways. He is still young and sometimes a mother has to let her son stumble for him to learn. Just be there and help him back on his feet. And should Lucius get caught, you will have Draco back before the holidays are over," Andromeda cut in but her words sounded hollow, even to her. Really, what was one supposed to say in that situation? However, Narcissa clung to that statement like a lifeline.
"You are right, of course, you are right. Oh, if only Mother could see us now. The disgraced daughter being the only one whose life is not in ruins - "
"Your life is not in ruins."
"I am about to lose my son and my husband. I have almost no gold of my own and no place to call home."
"Don't worry about that. No sister of mine will starve or become homeless while I can prevent it. Perhaps one of the Black holiday homes? You could even start painting again."
"Maybe - "
"Just imagine standing on the terrace of the Maspalomas Villa, a light breeze blowing through your hair as you take inspiration from the dunes and the sea, the sound of waves and soft music."
"That sound lovely. And I could wear a - How are they called again? A bike-iny? I could wear that again."
"My dear sister, it will please you to know that Spain considers the upper half of a Bikini purely optional."
The following giggle proved that she succeeded in taking her sister's mind away from any dark thoughts for the moment. But it also raised the question of why she was the only normal person in a family full of nymphomaniacs. With a resigned sigh, Andromeda vanished the dust from the office and began to work. There had to be a loophole in the marriage contract, there always was. The contract parties might not be able to use it, but the Head of the Family was not limited by such technicalities. And while she was at it she might as well take care of the other contract.
"The forty-second session of the year 1994 is called to order. We have three changes among our ranks. Once these are confirmed there are seventeen matters awaiting a vote. Does anybody have any objections? No? Then let us begin."
Andromeda looked at the wizard leading the procedures. Acting Warlock Smith, a short man heavily burdened by his ninety-seven years, did not have the patience for any kind of flourish and his annoyance was clearly audible. Most delegates were looking at her with some degree of curiosity, wondering just who she was, or alternatively, why Bellatrix Lestrange was standing there in clean clothes, free of restraints.
The Wizengamot was meeting in a rectangular room on Level Two made out of polished granite blocks. Three of the four sides were filled with seats separated by the entrances from the podium of the Chief Warlock and his staff consisting of aides and scribes. It was illuminated by a phalanx of torches while the ranks were just dimly lit. The walls were decorated with ornate tapestries depicting important events from the magical history of the Isles, from the Kingdom of Avalon to the violent end of countless Goblin Rebellions and the Battle of Numengrad.
"Since our Chief Warlock is busy with his very important ICW obligations in Tahiti, it falls to me to announce all new members of this august body. Henry Abbott is taking over the vacant seat of House Abbott after the demise of the late Lord Franklin Abbott. Augustus Ogden is the temporary regent of House Ogden while Lord Brandon Ogden recovers from a mild case of Dragon Pox. And Andromeda Tonks-Black takes over the seat of House Black after the previous Lord Black abdicated and named her his heir. Mister Doge, you are relieved of your duty to this assembly. Please vacate this room since you are no longer a member of the Wizengamot."
"Objection Acting Warlock, I am sitting in for House Black in agreement with the Chief Warlock," an elderly, bulky wizard with little hair left threw in and about one-third of the Wizengamot members murmured their agreement.
"And on which grounds was this arrangement made?"
"My father was the fourth cousin of a former Lord Black," the man replied, pushing his chest out as if a relation to the Blacks was something uncommon or something to be proud of.
"And how does that give you the right to deny the current Head of House Black."
"Andromeda Tonks cannot lead House Black. Everyone knows that she was cast out for marrying a Muggleborn."
"Lady Tonks-Black?" the acting leader of the Wizengamot asked, reverting back to his bored tone. Apparently, this was not as exciting as the old man had expected.
"That is not true. Lord Arcturus Black acknowledged my marriage and paid a dowry, following our century-old traditions. I was not cast out until my uncle Orion Black took over the headship of House Black."
"So she has no claim," Doge threw in victoriously and again agreement echoed through the chamber.
"Thirteen days ago I received two letters from the Department of Inheritances, one announcing that I was reinstated into the Black Family and another which named me the heir. My daughter was recognised as a family member as well. I do not know who the previous Lord Black was, nor did I expect him to abdicate within a week. I am merely here following a summon from the Department of Inheritances."
"I do not believe that," the now suspended proxy of House Black spluttered.
"Mr Doge, I have copies of the mentioned letters right here. Whoever may have been the previous Lord Black, he filled the necessary paperwork and put his seal on the documents. That makes Andromeda Tonks-Black Head of House Black."
"Preposterous! Dumbledore will hear about this."
"Given that he should preside over the next session, I hope so. It is his duty to keep track of the Members after all."
"Acting Warlock, I must object. Andromeda Tonks is not fit to be a member of this honourable institution," a new voice shouted.
"And why should that be Lord Diggory?"
"She kidnapped Harry Potter."
"Order! Order!" Smith shouted over the resulting deluge of noises. The statement had been meant to be inflammatory and it unleashed a firestorm of reactions.
"Lord Diggory, those are serious accusations. Do you have any evidence to support this claim?"
"She stole his guardianship."
"This is going to be a long day, isn't it?" the acting head of the Wizengamot grumbled before turning to on the man next to him. "Aide, get me a copy of that guardianship case."
"Lady Black, are you aware what this man is referring to?"
"He probably heard that, as of last Monday, I am Harry's guardian. But that is confidential Ministry information and I am curious how Lord Diggory learned of it"
"Since all ministerial records are confidential I am interested in this as well. Lady Bones, see that your department investigates this."
"Yes, Acting Warlock."
"Lady Black, if I may ask this question, just how did you adopt young Potter? We were led to believe that Chief Warlock Dumbledore was his magical guardian and therefore any adoption would have to be approved by him," a mid-aged witch who looked like a Carrow asked.
"Our esteemed Chief Warlock was right when he said that he was Harry Potter's magical guardian because the Chief Warlock is the acting magical guardian of all orphans not in the care of a relative who finished their apprenticeship. This acting guardianship does not give him the right to stop any relative from taking over the actual guardianship."
"Just how many witches and wizards were qualified for Mr Potter's guardianship?" the acting Warlock wanted to know.
"On 31st of October 1981, there were eleven people fulfilling the requirements of the Familiar Care Decree of 1349. Two of those were arrested shortly afterwards, three died and another was declared dead."
"But why now? Why wait thirteen years?" Diggory shouted.
"My Interest in Harry Potter's guardianship is well documented. There ought to be records of Tonks against the Chief Warlock and Revision of Tonks against the Chief Warlock stored in the Ministry Archives," Andromeda replied, feeling far less confident than she sounded. She had expected Dumbledore and the grandfatherly routine she remembered from her Hogwarts time, not a barrage of questions asked before she was even seated.
"There's no need to dig those records up. I remember those cases. Lady Black is telling the truth regarding these incidents."
'He does not believe me in the other matters but he cares too little about it to ask questions. This whole business just got much easier,' Andi thought as the aide returned with the files.
"These documents are in order. Mister Diggory, your objection is denied and the DMLE will investigate the origin of your information. Now that the introductions are done, Lord Abbott do you declare allegiance to any faction?"
"House Abbott continues its standing as a steadfast ally of House Jones," the blonde man replied but was drowned out by the turmoil in the ranks as the members discussed these new developments.
"Lady Black, do you declare allegiance to any faction?"
"No, House Black will remain independent."
That certainly ruffled some feathers since almost every member expected that she would join their opponents. After all, the Blacks were as dark as their name would suggest but she was the black sheep, so obviously she would be on the light side.
Walking to the neutral seats Andromeda could feel the pure loathing as she passed the conservative block. It did not take longer than five seconds but the hateful glares felt like boiling water on her neck. To most of them, she was nothing but a blood traitor bitch who just usurped the Noble House of Black. No, she would not make any friends there.
Meanwhile, the "light side" probably saw her as a traitor as well since she refused to join one of their factions. Add her adoption of Harry Potter, which went against Dumbledore's plans, and you had half of the members already hating her guts. Narcissa had been right, offending these people was even easier than it sounded. Well, at least she now reached a comfortable chair next to Lady Lewis, a brunette barely twenty years old. Which gave her the time to backtrack her thoughts to Dumbledore's plans because she could not even guess what the old man was up to. And how did letting Harry Potter be abused factor into his plans? Letting vicious Muggles abuse a magical child to push some anti Muggle legalisation sounded something the "mind controlled" Death Eaters would cook up, not the only Wizard the Dark Lord ever feared.
Andromeda locked eyes with Lucius Malfoy for a moment and had to fight the urge to laugh. While he was sitting on his plush chair, sneering down at her, his former wife was back at Malfoy Manor, grabbing her possessions and preparing her escape. The divorce itself had taken five minutes. The marriage contract stated that conduct disgracing the other family declared it void and that's what she had written on the form. Unless Lucius felt like telling the public what happened on the 30th of May 1993 between him, Harry Potter and that crazy house elf, there was little he could do. And if he did that, Veritaserum would come into play and the divorce became the least of his worries.
Finally, the session began and a number of people presented their cases. A witch from Inverness tried to appeal a court decision regarding her late grandfather's estate. Andromeda voted in her favour, but few others did and so the Scotswoman went home empty-handed.
The next vote concerned the salary of the Wizengamot and money proved to be the universal language everyone spoke. Andromeda, being unaware that she was getting paid for this waste of time, was one of the three votes against the increase. She was content with the one hundred twenty Galleons Comet paid her each month and together with Edward's earnings it was more than enough for a good lifestyle. Really, how anyone in the magical world could suffer poverty was beyond her. Even the thirty Galleons a shop assistant earned in Norwich's magical district could be traded for over seven thousand Pound Sterling. Then again, the notoriously broke Weasley family blew close to two hundred thousand pounds on a vacation to Egypt instead of fixing the hovel they called home. The Tonks matriarch had the misfortune of seeing the Burrow once when one of her distant aunts took her to see some distant kin of her own. But apparently, the disregard for financial responsibility and contraceptives were the reason for the Weasley's poverty, not a lacking income.
That might be a little harsh towards those redheaded menaces, but ever since Charlie Weasley wanted to use her daughter to cover his attraction towards other wizards while Nymphadora had genuine feelings for him, Andromeda held the entire family in contempt. And when Harry casually mentioned that Molly Weasley told him about her suspicions that had been abused, but did nothing to change his living condition, the oldest of the Black sisters felt very tempted to see how well she still could control Fiendfyre.
Another ten court decisions were reviewed by the Wizengamot, followed by laws concerning a sale tax for potion ingredients, import tariffs on dragon ingredients and the embargo on flying carpets. Next was a wizard who claimed to be Merlin's heir and that he should, therefore, be King of England. Andromeda wanted to carry that motion only to see his face when somebody told him that the Kingdom of England had ceased to exist in 1707. In the end, common sense defeated humour and the proposal was shot down without a single vote in its favour.
"Is that normal?" Lady Lewis asked Andi and the older witch could immediately tell that her neighbour had no idea how the political game was played.
"Well, my great uncle used to say that there was the occasional crackpot."
"Oh right, I forgot you were new. You just look like you fit in here perfectly."
It was meant as a compliment and yet Andromeda felt insulted. She was not one of them.
The last vote of the day, an amendment to the Floo Act of 1915, was over moments later. The acting Warlock closed the forty-second session and all members hurried out of the tall room. Andromeda sighed since there was one last thing to do.
You know all the stories where Harry becomes Lord Potter-Black-Gryffindor-Merlin-Habsburg-Hohenzollern-Ming? The ones where getting those titles alone means that Harry has infinite political powers and everyone bends over because he is Lord Emperor Potter-Black-Gryffindor-Merlin-Habsburg-Hohenzollern-Ming? I tried a more realistic approach here. Andromeda can do the divorces because she has dirt on Malfoy and no one is going to publicly claim that Lestrange is an honourable man. Other than that she is just a voting member of the Wizengamot, whose vote counts as much as anybody else's. Also, there is no huge Black fortune just waiting to be claimed at Gringotts. Most of the Black capital had been invested in real estate but due to years of neglect lost a lot of its value.
Remember that at this point the Malfoys did not have Voldemort as a house-guest for two years and there is no imminent threat to Draco's life so Narcissa does not see the need to stay with her son at any cost. Lucius, for all his faults, cares about Draco and can undoubtedly provide for him.
Also, does anyone here really think that a teenage Sirius wouldn't have sex with Narcissa just to spite Lucius Malfoy, the embodiment of the pureblood elite he loathed? She was attractive, Sirius was a male teenager and that's really all the motivation he needed. The part about Narcissa and Nymphadora, however, was merely a joke aimed to get a rise out of Andromeda.
Maspalomas is a town on the southern shore of Gran Canaria, bordering on Europe's largest sand dunes.